Groundswell brings together artists, youth, and community organizations to use art as a tool for social change. Our projects beautify neighborhoods, engage youth in societal and personal transformation, and give expression to ideas and perspectives that are underrepresented in the public dialogue.



Most Groundswell youth attend New York City public schools and come from low-income or working-class families. Annually, up to 800 young people, primarily aged 14 to 21 participate. Our participants are motivated to join our programs by public art-making’s connection to graffiti and street culture, to make new friends, express themselves, develop art skills and work collaboratively. For more, visit our Youth Profiles.

Community-Based Organizations
Groundswell is NYC’s leading organization dedicated to preserving, teaching, and advancing the study and practice of public art-making. Community based organizations, schools and city agencies contact us to learn how public art can raise awareness about their organization, advance their mission, build community and visually transform public space. We have collaborated with more than 300 organizations since our founding.

Local, established artists lead every Groundswell project. All have bachelors and/or masters degrees in fine arts and experience working with youth. Groundswell's artists are committed to the practice of collaborative, community art and to using art to advance social change.


Youth in Groundswell programs develop and hone their abilities in four key areas: Creativity; Collaboration; Critical Thinking and Compassion. They master skills in art making to communicate ideas, work effectively with others, make informed decisions, and to build awareness of and empathy for others.

For Youth

Summer Leadership Institute (SLI): A summer program for up to 100 youth annually. Six teams of youth work with artists and community-based organizations to learn create large scale works of public art that beautify neighborhoods and give voice to ideas and perspectives that are underrepresented in the public dialogue.

Teen Empowerment Mural Apprenticeship (TEMA): An after-school program, modeled on a traditional apprenticeship, in which teens create public art for community-based organizations, working in Groundswell's studio and with a particular emphasis on skills development.

Voices Her’d Visionaries (VHV): A year-round program where young women examine issues facing women and girls, and choose a topic upon which to focus a summer public art project.

Making Hi'story (MH): Based on Groundswell's Voices Her'd Visionaries, this is a program for young men who have demonstrated exemplary committment to Groundswell and the potential for leadership. The program piloted in 2007 and will launch again in 2012, adding a seventh project to the Summer Leadership Institute.

Portfolio Development: Groundswell high school students interested in attending post-secondary art programs work with artists to assemble a portfolio for their applications.

For Court-Involved Youth

TurnStyle: In partnership with the Red Hook Community Court and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, youth arrested for minor offences fulfill their community service requirements working with Groundswell artists

Segue: Youth who have graduated from the TurnStyle program learn the skills that are necessary for participation in Groundswell’s after-school and summer public art-making programs.

Riker's Island: Incarcerated youth at Riker's Island collaborate with Groundswell artists to create murals in the Riker’s Island jail.

In the Community

Community Mural Action Program (CMAP): Schools and community groups contract with Groundswell to develop public art projects that reflect their mission. CMAP projects often meet at a partner organization’s site and are sometimes part of the school day.

StreetWise: Hunts Point. With support from the Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation Fund, Groundswell partners with The Majora Carter Group to engage youth, artists, and other community members in the identification of transportation-related concerns in the South Bronx and recommendation of design, signage, and policy solutions with the NYC Department of Transportation.



College Art Association Annual Conference, February 2011
Groundswell will present on "From the Ground Up: Public Art and Community"

Visit our Conference & Presentations Archive