Art Force 5 to host August 9 Exhibition in Harlem

HARLEM, NEW YORK, NY – For the next several Thursday evenings, Harlem residents are invited to the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building plaza to paint one three-inch square tile as part of an ongoing tribute to Harlem icons. The work of hundreds of participants will be on full display Friday, Aug. 9, at a reception in 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 New York City. Founded at Alfred University, the program promotes “creativity over conflict” through artistic community engagement and a nod toward comic book superheroes.

As part of its summer residency, the Art Force 5 team also provides youth programming Fridays through Sundays 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. The tiles are used to create mosaics honoring icons of the Harlem Renaissance, an intellectual, social, and artistic explosion centered in Harlem during the 1920s. Early portraits of political activist-journalist Marcus Garvey and novelist-essayist-playwright James Baldwin have already engaged hundreds, with efforts to honor sculptor Augusta Savage and jazz singer Billie Holiday to come.

“We were honored to be asked to be part of the celebration of the Harlem Renaissance’s 100th anniversary,” said Professor Hiram Cray, who also illustrates the portraits which are the gridded and replicated by 196 other people to create the mosaics. “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. Assemblyman Al Taylor and State Senator Brian Benjamin, both of whom have been supportive of Art Force 5’s efforts, are anticipated to attend at least one Thursday night session to paint a tile.

“Harlem’s legacy of artistic excellence has touched the world over, and I’m thrilled that the Art Force 5 team's pop-up not only celebrates the Harlem Renaissance’s 100th anniversary, but also invites the community to honor the lives and achievements of Harlem's most iconic figures,” Taylor commented.

Minerva Diaz, Director of Operations of Harlem’s Dwyer Cultural Center invited the team to pay mosaic tribute to actors/civil rights activists Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee on the occasion of a street naming ceremony. Diaz said 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. 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 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 as the team may be making additional stops on Thursday early afternoons before setting up at the State Plaza. More details about the Aug. 9 reception will be made available at with RSVP function in place by July 9.Reservations can be made at

Dan Napolitano