The Health Department announced the debut of a new mural at the John F. Kennedy International Airport’s (JFK) Terminal 4 in the Arrival Hall, created as part of the NYC Mural Arts Project. The program brings together people with serious mental health conditions, community members, Certified Peer Specialists — or people with lived experience of a serious mental health condition who are trained to provide peer support — and local muralists to collaborate on a mental-health-themed mural to raise awareness around mental health and reduce stigma toward people who experience mental illness.
“The NYC Mural Arts Project confronts stigma around mental illness and promotes community, compassion, and respect,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Our approach to mental illness is about building connection. These murals connect those with lived experience with mental illness to each other, their fellow New Yorkers, and the fabric of our city. I thank all of our partners and the community members who participated in creating this beautiful artwork.”
“Behind this incredible mural are countless hours of conversations and connections around mental health,” said Acting Executive Deputy Commissioner of Mental Hygiene Dr. Michael McRae. “The NYC Mural Arts Project facilitates a deeper understanding around mental health conditions, strengthening and uplifting the experiences of communities that co-created these murals.”
“The Venture House community of staff and members is grateful to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for supporting this meaningful initiative,” said Venture House Chief Executive Officer Juliet Douglas. “While mural painting was the vehicle, the end goal of this undertaking was to stamp out stigma, through the coming together of a diverse group, with and without mental health conditions, focused on a common purpose, sharing ideas, exploring assumptions, and embracing our commonality. Getting up close and personal with those whom we may fear helps to dispel misconception and chips away at our prejudices.”
The mural at Terminal 4, titled “SEE US, REALLY SEE US”, was conceptualized and created by members of the Venture House Clubhouse in Jamaica, Queens — an organization that supports people living with serious mental health conditions — peer specialists, community members, Certified Peer Specialist Michael Turgeon and professional muralist Giannina Gutierrez. The Mural Arts Project is facilitated through Brooklyn Community Services and funded by the New York City Health Department.
JFK’s Terminal 4 was chosen as the mural’s final site because of the high level of foot traffic, amplifying the message of the importance of mental health and stigma reduction.
Research shows that the best way to reduce stigma is for people living with serious mental health conditions to share their experiences, recovery, and resources while providing hope and encouragement to peers and community members. An evaluation of the Mural Arts Project found that of people who participated in the community engagement workshops, 65% had a positive change in their stigma towards people with mental illness, and 58% showed an increase in mental health awareness and education.
When the NYC Mural Arts Project starts the process of creating a new mural, the program first solicits mental health program partners. Then, professional muralists are selected, ideally, those who have created public art in the chosen neighborhoods. Brooklyn Community Services, which has been contracted to operate the program, then identifies various community partner entities, including non-profit, for-profit, and elected officials, to support the promotion of the project in the chosen community.
During the planning phase, the mental health program partner will host a series of public events and workshops where mental health program participants and community collaborators can have an open space to discuss mental health and form bonds between people experiencing mental illness and their fellow community members.
From there, the collaborators will create a mental health theme and correlating design and engage in an iterative feedback process with the broader community. Once the design is finalized, community members will come together to paint the mural panels at public events and finally unveil the mural to the larger community. The mural production technology utilizes Polytab material as a canvas, and the panels are glued in place, resulting in a high-quality and durable mural.
The entire process, from start to end, takes approximately a full year to complete.
The Health Department developed the NYC Mural Arts Project and launched it in 2016. Since its launch, the program has created ten large-scale murals and two mural benches.
The Health Department and Brooklyn Community Services are seeking CBO partners to begin the mural design process for 2023. For more information, visit muralartsproject.cityofnewyork.us.
“I feel so proud to have served as a peer counselor (a trained and certified peer advocate who has a mental health condition) with the NYC Mural Arts Project in collaboration with Venture House Club House in Jamaica, Queens,” said Certified Peer Specialist Michael Turgeon. “It was truly an amazing opportunity to work with such dedicated and creative peers and staff, the NYC Community, and an incredible NYC artist to develop a large-scale artwork that will have a lasting legacy of breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illness and at the same time, beautifying the City.”
“My experience with NYC MAPS this year has been an extremely rewarding and fulfilling one,” said muralist Giannina Gutierrez. “I grew up in Jamaica, Queens. Coming back here working as a professional artist was humbling; I truly felt the responsibility of ensuring that all voices be heard. That we all are seen for who we really are, not as the stigmas, people perpetuate about mental illness. From concepts to the actual execution of the mural and a few obstacles, we triumphed. My hope is that it speaks to us all and really creates the awareness we need to treat each other with love and compassion.”
“We are always looking for ways to ensure that all of our guests and the entire T4 community feel seen, heard and recognized,” said Roel Huinink, President and CEO of JFKIAT, the operator of Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport. “We are proud to partner with the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, NYC Mural Arts, and our community partners on this exceptional project to break the stigma around mental health and raise awareness around the resources available to support mental wellbeing.”
“This new mural here at John F. Kennedy International Airport is significant to the New Yorkers and millions of international travelers who come through Terminal 4 annually,” said Hersh Parekh, Director of Government Affairs at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “The Port Authority is intensely focused on community partnerships and opportunities, especially at our airports. It is good to see that the result of such collaboration is a beautiful and inspirational public art installation, one that will be enjoyed by travelers and delivers a strong message about the importance of mental health.”
“Programs like the NYC Mural Arts Project create space for communities to come together and support one another’s mental health,” said Brooklyn Community Services President and Executive Director Janelle Farris. “Brooklyn Community Services is proud to partner with NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and other human services agencies to fight the stigma associated with mental illness both in Brooklyn and beyond.”
“I’m delighted that international visitors to New York City through JFK will be greeted by a fantastic new mural created through the NYC Mural Arts Program that shows New York City is a place where people living with mental illness are welcome and supported,” said Mary Crowley, Interim President and CEO of Fountain House. “I’m especially glad that people living with serious mental illness — including clubhouse members from Venture House — helped create the mural and together help to stamp out stigma. Ultimately, there can be no health without mental health, and we hope this mural in JFK Airport will serve as a powerful message to everyone in our city that they are not alone in their struggles, that recovery is possible, and that there’s healing in community.”