The New York Times‘ City Room blog today mentions an anti-military recruiting mural that’s just gone up on a building on 23 Street and Third Avenue in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. The mural, which (from what we can see) depicts young women in fatigues parachuting to earth and features a pile of dog tags, will be dedicated on September 6.
Reporter David Gonzalez had previously covered the project when it was in progress. The group of young women who were painting it told Gonzalez that “repeated and unwanted come-ons from [military] recruiters” inspired their work.
Comments on the blog entry have turned into a debate on war in general. “The US military help many inner city youth to go on to bigger and better things,” writes GI Joe. “I wish these peaceniks would realize this.” Kim W. responds that “it was the inner-city youth who DID this mural, and not ‘peaceniks.'” “Being an ‘inner city youth’ and a ‘peacenik,'” rejoins Rich from Greenpoint, “are not mutually exclsuve.”
New York street murals tend to be memorials; if you’ve seen one with an explicitly political or social message, chances are it’s from the Groundswell Community Mural Project, which sponsored the Sunset Park painting.
The 12-year-old educational non-profit “brings together professional artists, grassroots organizations and communities in partnership” to make street murals with messages. Its works include the “One World Unity” mural in South Slope, the pro-union “Stronger Together” mural in the lobby of 32BJ/SEIU Headquarters in Manhattan, and the “Live In the Environmental Area of Your Destiny” mural at 168th and Amsterdam, which features “fruits and vegetables [that] represent the healing qualities of a good diet that can combat lead poisoning as well as referencing the healthy components of the traditional Caribbean diet.” Groundswell’s contributors include the NEA, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, JP Morgan Chase, and Microsoft.
Groundswell stresses that the concepts come from the young artists themselves. In this instance, “they were asked what issues they wanted to address, and they said, poverty and the war,” its spokesman told us. Because recruiters target young people from low-income families, he added, the subject was thought to combine both themes.