Harlem, NY – For the next several Thursday evenings, Harlem residents are invited to the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building plaza to paint one 3” square tile as part of an ongoing tribute to Harlem icons. The work of hundreds of participants will be on full display Friday, August 9, 2019 as a reception will be held on the state office building’s second floor gallery.
The effort is led by the Art Force 5, a team of college students recruited from throughout the city. Founded at Alfred University, the program promotes “creativity over conflict” through artistic community engagement and a nod toward comic book superheroes.
The team also provides youth programming Fridays through Sunday on Governors Island, with a colorful comic book timeline of diversity milestones, a neon art exhibit featuring recent Alfred graduates, and numerous craft activities inviting kids to make their own capes and action figures. Each Thursday, the team can be found in Harlem painting tiles with police, youth, and area residents. Early portraits of Marcus Garvey and James Baldwin have already engaged hundreds with Augusta Savage and Billie Holiday up next.
“We were honored to be asked to be part of the celebration of the Harlem Renaissance’s 100th anniversary,” shared Professor Hiram Cray, who also illustrates the portraits which are the gridded and replicated by 196 other people. “We find pride in our efforts being more about the process – meeting and sharing these stories – than the actual final product, which often includes various levels of artistic talent as no art experience is required.”
The program has garnered some impressive partners and supporters.
Minerva Diaz, Director of Operations of Harlem’s Dwyer Cultural Center invited the team to pay mosaic tribute to Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee on the occasion of a street naming ceremony. Diaz shared she was “thrilled with the thoughtful design and the respectful way in which the shared mosaic-making involved the Davis descendants in the process.”
Detectives Osvaldo Collado and Byron Peña, Community Affairs liaisons for the 32nd Precinct of the NYPD invited the Art Force 5 to their Out Late events and still proudly display their hand-crafted superheroes on their desks.
Assemblymen Al Taylor met about the project in Albany and is likely to attend at least one Thursday night session to paint a tile, along with fellow Assemblyman Brian Benjamin.
The team created one at the June 23 Harlem Arts and Jazz Fest on Amsterdam Avenue and may be attending another at Colombia on June 29.
The New York State Office of General Services even invited the team to occupy the plaza alongside the Summer Stage in Harlem concert series on the plaza beginning mid-July.
Invitations for other partnerships may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org as the team may be making additional stops on Thursday early afternoons before setting up at the State Plaza. Ticket reservations at https://artforce5.eventbrite.com