Mural Life in the Lower East Side, Fall 2015

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Inspired by the 1930s Mexican mural movement, the community mural as a social and political tool played a major role in the civil rights movement in the United States. The larger than life artworks painted on walls in the Lower East Side (LES) in New York City, historically home to working class immigrants, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans provided a space for the community to tell stories of their history, hopes, struggles, and resistances. This practice of community art also allowed the community to control its own public spaces. Some of the murals in LES  retain this activist agenda; however, due to gentrifying forces changing the face of the LES, many murals are now commissioned by shopkeepers to add vibrancy to commercial exteriors. This map speaks to the daily life of some of these murals in the LES. 

Research and documentation of the murals was conducted by graduate students in Fall of 2015 as part of a class taught by Dipti Desai. The students used photography to document public murals. They observed and interviewed people who stopped to look at a mural and also people who work or live near the murals, towards understanding the role of public murals in people’s everyday lives. All the murals were photographed in the Lower East Side in Fall 2015, however this map is only a snapshot representing 50 murals.

Collaborators: Katie Beeton, Diane Bezucha, Allison Blakeney, Carol Cabrera, Emily Caruso, Olivia Ek, Tiffany Fung, Erika Houle, Andrea klabanova, Crystal Marich, Christina Morgera, Rebecca Neil, Larissa Pham, Sara Rubenson, Alexin Tenefrancia, Kailin Zhu, Dipti Desai,  and Adjunct Professor Priyanka Dasgupta.

This project, along with an article co-authored by Dipti Desai and Priyanka Dasgupta, was featured in Interartive #87, a digital platform for art and thought. Click here for the article: Street Art and its Languages

The project was also featured in the NYU Arts Digest. Click here for issue: Community Storytelling

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