HELL’S KITCHEN — A pair of massive murals will soon line a walking bridge along West 34th Street as part of a project aimed at shedding light on mental health issues.
The Fountain House Gallery recently partnered with the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to bring an initiative called the Mural Arts Project to Hell’s Kitchen, gallery director Ariel Willmott said.
Over the past few months, members of Fountain House — a nonprofit that provides services for New Yorkers with mental illness — have been working with the Health Department and artist Andrew Frank Baer to “develop concepts and themes and ideas [for the mural] related to their own experiences with mental health issues,” Willmott said.
Three panels that will run horizontally on one side of the bridge. The phrase "Some days
I have to push myself to go outside and walk to the park" will be incorporated. (Credit: Andrew Frank Baer)
The workshops gave participants “an opportunity … to share with each other about their own experiences, and to talk about… how their experiences can be used to reach a larger community audience,” she explained.
Two designs Baer created based on ideas the workshops generated will be printed on sheets made of a plastic-fabric blend in “paint-by-number” form, Willmott explained.
Three panels that will run horizontally on the other side of the bridge. The phrase "Say hello
so that we can accept each other and open doors together" will be incorporated. (Credit: Andrew Frank Baer)
Members of Fountain House and the general public will be able to stop by the gallery and help paint the sheets at a “Community Paint Fest” on Saturday, May 13, Willmott said.
"There is a team of the muralists and [Baer's] mural assistants that will be working on it, but a lot of the painting will be done in this space, and it will be open to anyone in the community," she said.
The murals will be 84-by-7 feet and are expected to be installed by the end of June, the Health Department Mural Art Project Manager Vanessa Smith said.
Once the sheets are painted and glazed, they’ll be adhered to the walls along the Port Authority Walking Bridge on West 34th Street, between Ninth and 10th avenues.
“The goal with this process is to have [the mural] be there as long as possible,” Smith said. “With this method, murals can last for decades and still maintain their vibrancy.”
The Port Authority has already approved the project, and the Health Department is now waiting on permits from the city’s Department of Transportation, she added.
The project’s organizers hope the mural-making process — and the mural itself — will spark conversations about mental health.
“Our standalone nonprofit’s mission is to combat the stigma around mental illness through art, so we were very happy to partner with DOH and the Mural Arts Project to create this project,” Willmott said.
“Once [participants] see their ... work on that scale, it will be a very meaningful moment."