Art Force partnership with Atlanta Police and NFL to air Feb 22

ATLANTA, GA – Alfred University’s Art Force 5, a program that uses community-based art to inspire discussion on topics of equality and social justice, will be featured in an upcoming NFL Network series celebrating Black History Month.

Representatives of Art Force 5, including current Alfred University students and alumni, spent parts of two weeks last month in Atlanta, working on a project honoring the city’s first African-American police officers. Members of the community painted canvas tiles used to create mosaics depicting the eight officers, who were hired by the city in 1948.

Trent Cooper, a 1992 Alfred University graduate and a producer of original content for the NFL Network, joined the group this week, overseeing an NFL Network film crew that documented the Art Force 5 painting project on Wednesday (Jan. 30). About a dozen Atlanta police officers, as well as a pair of current NFL players, were on hand to participate. Cooper will produce a segment to be used in a four-part piece for the NFL Network’s Emmy Award-nominated NFL 360 series. The NFL 360 piece produced for Black History Month will air Feb. 22.

“This has been an amazing experience to connect with the community,” said Dan Napolitano ’93, assistant dean of the Alfred University School of Art and Design. “We enjoyed working with the police officers and the youth of Atlanta.”

Napolitano and Hiram Cray, Art Force 5 teaching fellow, accompanied a group of Alfred University students to Atlanta Jan. 15-17, where they engaged the public in painting tiles at various neighborhoods and sites in the city. Napolitano and Cray returned to the city this week (Jan. 30-Feb. 1), overseeing creation of three more mosaics.

More than a dozen Atlanta police officers, as well as current NFL players and Atlanta-area natives Dalvin Tomlinson (New York Giants) and Kenyon Drake (Miami Dolphins) painted tiles on Wednesday; Napolitano estimates more than 250 people participated in the project with Art Force 5. The three-by-five-foot mosaics – each made up of 135 tiles –  were completed Thursday and installed Friday on the outside of the former Butler Street YMCA Building, which in 1948 housed the precinct for the city’s African-American police force.

Alfred University alumni Alexandria (Hoang) Hubbell ’10, Mawia Elawad ’17 and Imani Graves ’18 – who were active with Art Force 5 as undergraduates – were joined in Atlanta this week by SUNY Albany junior Michael Perez, who participated in an Art Force 5 summer residency program on Manhattan’s Governors Island last year.

Hubbell served as host for descendants (mostly grandchildren) of two of the officers depicted in the mosaics. They participated in the project, painting tiles used in their grandfathers’ mosaics.

“I loved hearing from the (current) police officers about how the community has evolved,” Graves commented, referring to how the police force has become more diverse and how its role in local communities and relationship with residents has helped lower crime rates.

Founded in 2006 at Alfred University, the Art Force 5 has received national recognition for their unique diversity training and their interactive community-based art, and has a proven record of engaging communities through creativity. In 2016, the group was awarded the Unite Rochester Challenge grant and designed opportunities for the Rochester Police Department to make art alongside community members. Throughout 2017, the team conducted a statewide tour building mosaics and raising awareness of 1917’s East St. Louis Riots through portraits of the leaders of the subsequent 1917 Silent Parade. The final works were exhibited at both the NAACP National Convention in Baltimore and at the State University of New York (SUNY) Central Administration in Albany, NY.

 The Art Force 5 held a summer residency on Manhattan’s Governors Island in 2018, serving New York City residents and visitors with engaging art initiatives. Art Force 5 is currently developing its 2019 summer program to include a return to Governors Island and a weekly series in Harlem with the New York Police Department.

Art Force 5 was the recipient of nearly $400,000 in state grant funding through the State University of New York (SUNY) Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and Provost’s Performance Improvement Fund (PIF). The two-year grant is funding Art Force 5 projects over a two-year period, 2018 and 2019.

In the photo above, (front, from left) Mawia Elawad ’17, Alexandria Hubbell ’10 and Imani Graves ’18; and (back, from left) Michael Perez, Trent Cooper ’92 and Dan Napolitano ’93 stand in front of the former Butler Street YMCA Building, which in 1948 housed the precinct for Atlanta’s African-American police force. Completed mosaics depicting the city’s first African-American officers adorn the side of the building.