BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Community spirit recently proved itself to be the source of goodwill and artistic endeavor on the Lower East Side.
A new mural at the corner of Grand and Suffolk Streets now adorns the Community First Food Pantry. The project was a joint effort by UA3, a nonprofit that founded the food bank in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and which has given away $10 million in food and 6 million masks, and Murals for Good, also a nonprofit.
The theme for the mural, #WeAreBetterTogether, was the brainchild of May Siu, founder of Murals for Good. Siu, an Asian-American woman, saw race- and gender-based hate crimes increase during the pandemic and this catalyzed her desire to create a nonprofit public art project to address social-justice issues in New York City.
Siu is a multidisciplinary artist focusing primarily on providing artists a platform for social-justice art. She also designs augmented reality (AR) light-projection art. As an Asian-American woman who has lived the COVID-related hate experience, Siu believes, “Now is the time for us to shine light on this issue and transform pain into positive
Siu sees art as a powerful medium that can galvanize individuals and transform communities. Murals for Good is a dedicated group of New Yorkers who believe in the power of public art to heal their fractured city. The artists and partners work to amplify and promote equity, inclusion and belonging.
They also curate and create murals throughout the city, and their young artists work with local poverty-fighting organizations that help make New York City more equitable.
“These young artists are the next generation of solidarity ambassadors,” Siu said, “many traveling three hours each day to help bridge social, cultural and equity gaps. Through the murals, images and the mantra ‘We Are Better Together,’ we seek to draw attention to UA3’s and Murals for Good’s process of collaboration, youth empowerment, while also making a statement about the importance of solidarity across different communities.”
Muralist Miki Mu (Michela Muserra, a native of Foggia, Italy, and longtime New Yorker) was art director of the project. She oversaw the enthusiastic, young, budding artists who designed and painted the mural.
Miki Mu began her career as an animator and cartoonist. She embraced being a muralist to create public art dedicated to social justice. In this capacity she leads the creation of murals throughout the city and elsewhere in the United States.
At Murals for Good and UA3, solidarity goes beyond being just a word. It’s a pledge of collective action! Throughout the last few years, UA3 has been building a database of 100-plus community-based organizations (CBOs) to provide and share resources to create multiplier effects through collective action.
These organizations engage youth and other CBOs in diversity, equity and inclusion discussions, voice empowerment and hands-on solidarity work. They execute this by collaborating with local community-based organizations like Trinity Church, Henry Street Settlement and Lions Club International in distributing PPE and food to communities facing pandemic-related hardship and food-insecurity issues.