Great Walls: Sunset Park Unity Mural



Groundswell Community Mural Project ©

Acrylic on Wall
18 x 100 Ft

Lead Artist: Eric Miles
Assistant Artist: Amy Sananman
Intern Artists: Jonathan Fonseca & Katie Walsh

Community Partners: The 54th Street Block Association, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, The Arab American Family Support Center, UPROSE, and the Chinese American Planning Council.

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Over the spring of 2001, Sunset Park residents met with Groundswell to design a mural that reflected the range of cultures currently living in the neighborhood. The mural was to be painted over an old mural on the southern side of the Citibank building on their block, the same wall they had painted a mural on 20 years previously. The resulting mural not only asserts the rich multi ethnic identity of the neighborhood-but projects a universal message of connection, cultural understanding, tolerance and unity.

From March to May the group met to design the mural. The workshops held included an overview of mural history, a survey of contemporary public murals, discussions and studio activities related to mural composition and the development of a final mural sketch. In addition, the group organized public presentations of the mural sketch in order to solicit feedback and encourage involvement in the project.

The theme for the mural is the continuum of cultures that can be found in Sunset Park. In fact, as the sun rises and sets on the neighborhood, its travel across the sky highlights the eastern (Asian and Arab) cultures who literally live in the eastern part of the community and the western (Caribbean and White) cultures who live on the western part of the neighborhood. The sun's movement is represented in the mural by five suns. Figurative symbols of Arab, Chinese, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Dominican cultures collectively pull the suns in an arc across the sky showing the diversity and connected nature of the community. Beginning on the right side of the mural, the sun's movement is followed by the symbol of the dragon that is derived from the Chinese New Year dragon kite. The westward movement of the dragon is continued by the second major symbol, the Quetzalcoatl. This mythic and historic Mayan and Aztec symbol is a combined form that is half man and half feathered-serpent. Both the dragon and Quetzalcoatl are symbols of ethnic pride and strength. Other symbols and images in the mural include architectural elements such as brownstones typical of the area, the crown from the Statue of Liberty, and vegetative forms indigenous to the Caribbean and Ireland.

Over fifty community residents from a diverse range of backgrounds, including African American, Arab American, Asian, Latino, and White participated in the process of designing and painting of the mural.

Funding for this project has been provided by: Citibank, Decentralized Program, Brooklyn Arts Council, The Citizens Committee of NYC/PROUD and Councilman Rodriguez's Office.