It's pretty amazing what happens when people from one of the toughest neighborhoods in New York put aside their differences and work together using art.
Brownsville is commonly referred to as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York.
Yes, it may have a past riddled with violence, crime, and addiction, but community leaders are garnering the support of local teens and young people — who have their own storied pasts — and giving them the opportunity to change the tide of their future.
Not all housing projects have to look the same.
This relatively small neighborhood has the highest concentration of housing projects in all of New York City. It's a pretty common stigma for people to immediately associate projects with ugly brown buildings and a generally ominous facade. But if you were to head down to Pitkin Avenue today, you'd see that veil of doom has been lifted.
Who is leading the charge to transform the neighborhood?
The New York City Department of Probation, Groundswell New York, and the Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District have been working together to inspire a community-driven neighborhood revitalization. Wow, that's a mouthful. And they have been able to do this because of a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Basically, Groundswell has brought in professional artists to collaborate with young adults on probation, and together they have painted massive murals all over the neighborhood buildings.
The results have not only beautified the neighborhood, they have changed the lives of the 90 young adults who signed up to work on the project.
It's about more than just painting a wall.
Creating these enormous works of art not only takes time and dedication, but it teaches important lessons. Lessons that haven't necessarily been missing from their lives, but ones that maybe have never resonated in an attainable way.
Through this program, these so-called "hardest to reach community members" have become leaders.
They have learned the importance and effectiveness of teamwork and have a strong sense of pride in the role they have played in revitalizing their neighborhood. Those skills will be invaluable as they continue to grow their careers and, more importantly, will play a major role in how they choose to interact with family, friends, and neighbors.
After you watch this video and see the response from the participants and from neighbors who have lived in Brownsville for generations, share it! Because who's to say you can't make this happen in your community. I'd like to think I've been to enough places to know that every community has room for improvement, so why not use art as the catalyst for change?