Help Paint Murals Focused on Mental Health Issues for W. 34th Street Bridge

By Maya Rajamani

| May 5, 2017

HELL’S KITCHEN — A pair of massive murals will soon line a walking

bridge along West 34th Street as part of a project aimed at shedding light

on mental health issues.

The Fountain House Gallery of Health and Mental Hygiene Project

Department Mural Arts

recently partnered with the city’s

to bring an initiative called the

to Hell’s Kitchen, gallery director Ariel Willmott said.

Over the past few months, members of

— a nonprofit that

provides services for New Yorkers with mental illness — have been working

with the Health Department and artist

Andrew Frank Baer

to “develop

concepts and themes and ideas [for the mural] related to their own

experiences with mental health issues,” Willmott said.

Fountain House

Three panels that will run horizontally on one side of the bridge. The phrase "Some days I have to push myself to go outside and walk to the park" will be incorporated. (Credit: Andrew Frank Baer)

The workshops gave participants “an opportunity ... to share with each other about their own experiences, and to talk about... how their experiences can be used to reach a larger community audience,” she explained.

Two designs Baer created based on ideas the workshops generated will be printed on sheets made of a plastic-fabric blend in “paint-by-number” form, Willmott explained.

Three panels that will run horizontally on the other side of the bridge. The phrase "Say hello so that we can accept each other and open doors together" will be incorporated. (Credit: Andrew Frank Baer)

Members of Fountain House and the general public will be able to stop by

the gallery and help paint the sheets

Saturday, May 13

at a “Community Paint Fest” on

, Willmott said.

"There is a team of the muralists and [Baer's] mural assistants that will be working on it, but a lot of the painting will be done in this space, and it will be open to anyone in the community," she said.

The murals will be 84-by-7 feet and are expected to be installed by the end of June, the Health Department Mural Art Project Manager Vanessa Smith said.

Once the sheets are painted and glazed, they’ll be adhered to the walls along the Port Authority Walking Bridge on West 34th Street, between Ninth and 10th avenues.

“The goal with this process is to have [the mural] be there as long as possible,” Smith said. “With this method, murals can last for decades and still maintain their vibrancy.”

The Port Authority has already approved the project, and the Health Department is now waiting on permits from the city’s Department of Transportation, she added.

The project’s organizers hope the mural-making process — and the mural itself — will spark conversations about mental health.

“Our standalone nonprofit’s mission is to combat the stigma around mental illness through art, so we were very happy to partner with DOH and the Mural Arts Project to create this project,” Willmott said.

“Once [participants] see their ... work on that scale, it will be a very meaningful moment."

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