A person’s mental health cannot depend solely on clinical care. It is strengthened through communal support and open dialogue with family, friends, and neighbors. Also, a community’s health is enhanced by improving social relationships and expanding social networks. To destigmatize mental illness, we support and connect the following groups:
COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATIONS
Community Based Organizations—local providers of mental health services—are our anchor in the community and the launch point to engage residents and other local organizations. We aim to support their organizational goals, increase their presence in a community, and provide opportunities to share their work with all New Yorkers.
MENTAL HEALTH CONSUMERS
Mental Health Consumers—people receiving behavioral health services for a mental illness or addiction—live, work, and thrive in our communities. Our workshops, community engagement events, and mural design process offer a platform to share their lived experiences, capabilities, and skills with the rest of the community.
The Community—its families, residents, and workers—ground our project in a neighborhood, ensuring the murals are by and for the communities we work with. By supporting local arts and reimagining what mental illness looks like, community members give their neighborhood a mural that reflects who they are. It’s a lasting reminder of the work we can do together.
Director of the Office of Rehabilitation
Yumiko Ikuta is a person who lives with a mental illness and is the Director of the Office of Rehabilitation in the Bureau of Mental Health at the NYC Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene. In addition to the Mural Arts advocacy program, her Office oversees over 90 contracted non-clinical treatment, rehabilitation programs including supported employment, clubhouses, crisis respite and peer support among others. Her experience in mental health peer support and education is extensive, and she is a strong advocate in the community for people with serious mental illness. Yumiko also worked for over 15 years in the corporate sector and for the US Agency for International Development at the Dept. of State as an economic development officer in several developing countries. Yumiko holds a BA in Economics and East Asian Studies and an MBA in Marketing and International Business both from Columbia University.
Vanessa Monique Smith
Vanessa oversees NYCMAP to ensure the project is grounded in the Department of Health's goals and that it engages diverse New Yorkers in mental health topics related to community building and urban environments. She creates the program's design and planning, and builds strategic partnerships with city agencies and community groups to execute large-scale public works of art. In her work as a community driven planner, she has experience using participatory design and arts-based practices to improve public services, enhance the public realm, and support community and economic development. She is invested in developing strategies for mental health awareness, and in incorporating mental health into broader city polices. Vanessa holds degrees from The University of Chicago (BA, Anthropology) and Columbia University (MS, Urban Planning).
As the Project Coordinator, RJ keeps NYCMAP's day-to-day functions running smoothly, ensuring that artists, peer specialists, and community partners all have what they need in order to succeed. RJ has been involved in contemporary art since 2008, with a focus on facilitating and promoting catalytic and ambitious public projects. Prior to joining the NYC Mural Arts Project, he worked with The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, Mural Arts Philadelphia, and Creative Time. In addition to authoring and editing three books about public art, RJ has contributed writing to publications including The Saatchi Gallery Magazine, Hyperallergic, and Inside Higher Ed, and spoken at public art conferences throughout the United States and Europe.
Sean Brennan is a proud 2016 graduate of the Howie The Harp Advocacy Center. Sean is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Food Justice advocate and after being late life diagnosed with bipolar has used his lived experience to advance greater empathy and understanding as a Mental Health Peer Advocate. Sean is the Founder and Executive Director of Brain Food Garden Project, an organization that promotes the linkages between our food choices and how they impact our mental health and the power of gardening as a viable and important tool for recovery. Sean is excited to join the NYC Mural Arts Project in Sunset Park to inspire community creativity through a peer perspective.
Sunset Park Muralist
Born and raised in Reading, Pennsylvania, Julia Cocuzza is a Brooklyn-based painter, muralist, designer, print maker, and educator. She is working with NYCMAP in Sunset Park. Her paintings capture the loaded intersections, layers, and fragments of daily living, with a particular affection for urban structures and systems, human interaction, music, and obsolete media. Although she has shown and galleries and sold to private collections throughout the Northeast, community-driven public art has been her focus of recent years. She current works as Lead Teaching Artist for Groundswell Community Mural Project where she has led over a dozen community murals throughout New York City, including seven projects on Riker’s Island, collaborating with incarcerated youth through every stage of the process to convey messages of hope and social justice. She has partnered with other organizations to create public art, including Sing For Hope Pianos, Mural Arts Philadelphia, and Thrive Collective NYC. In addition, she is an adjunct instructor and higher education administrator for the City University of New York. She holds a BFA from Syracuse University, MFA from Brooklyn College, and has received artist residencies from Prairie Center for the Arts (Peoria, IL) and Wassaic Art Project (Wassaic, NY).
Staten Island Muralist
Alice Mizrachi is a New York based artist, working with NYCMAP in Staten Island. Her practice includes work as a muralist, fine artist, educator, and curator. Mizrachi explores both the spiritual and physical dimensions of being human, and in particular, female. Often times, the female figure in various mythical iterations intersects with earthbound feminine forms as a means to communicate social consciousness. Mizrachi’s intentions include the empowerment of self and others through artistic expression, as well as advocacy for women, youth, and the environment. Alice has worked with multiple organizations, including: BRIC Arts, The Laundromat Project, The Studio Museum, HI-ARTS, Miami Light Project, Brown University, and The Devos Institute. Her artwork has been featured at the Museum of the City of New York, the National Women’s Museum and Albright-Knox Museum; and, in a variety of publications. Alice received a BFA from Parsons School of Design and grants from The Puffin Foundation and The Ford Foundation.
East New York Muralist
Josh Sarantitis is an internationally acclaimed public artist who transforms urban environments through collaborative place-making, community-driven murals, mindfulness training and green space initiatives. Sarantitis has created over 45 mosaics, sculptural installations and murals in cities throughout the US and abroad, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, Tucson, Minneapolis, Seville, Berlin, and Paris. Seamlessly working with architects, engineers, government agencies, students and residents from diverse ethnic, cultural and socio-economic communities he has been instrumental in helping transform community mural art into a mainstream movement. Additionally, Sarantitis recently completed a three year position with the MIT Media Lab’s Social Computing group led by Sep Kamvar. During his time there he helped to develop an agile portable and modular parklet system to be deployed throughout urban areas bringing permaculture principles, art and edible foods to inner-city areas devoid of parks and green-space. Sarantitis was born and raised in New York City, and currently resides in Brooklyn, where his studio in the Navy Yard overlooks a century-old dry dock. He is collaborating with Mikaela González in East New York.
East New York Muralist
Born in Mexico City, and raised in Tijuana and the outskirts of Boston, Mikaela González has come to define her artwork as inseparable from its social purpose, whether it be raising awareness, building community, celebrating identity, or creating space for radical collaboration. She explores many themes in her projects through a queer, femme, and latinx lens, seeing art as a necessary tool for healing and resilience. Mikaela has worked with muralist Josh Sarantitis on various projects since high school, most recently completing a collaborative mural with high school students from Morris Campus in the South Bronx. Individually, Mikaela has spearheaded mural projects in Massachusetts (Hampshire College) and in Mexico, including at a migrant shelter in Tabasco. Since moving to NYC, she has organized with Semillas Collective, and plans to continue to hold space for community resistance art-making at the studio she shares with Sarantitis. Together with Sarantitis, she is one of NYCMAP's muralists for East New York.
2018/2019 COMMUNITY-BASED PARTNERS
Brooklyn Community Services (BCS)
Brooklyn Community Services' mission is to empower children, youth, adults and families to overcome the obstacles they face. Together BCS partners with their community to ensure opportunities for all to access an excellent education, jobs, safe and affordable housing, quality health care and wellness programs. To achieve this mission, they offer comprehensive and holistic services including early childhood education, youth development and after-school programs, family services, workforce development, community living and life skills programs for adults with intellectual disabilities and /or mental health concerns, health and wellness programs, supportive housing and shelter, adult Basic Education and ESOL, and disaster recovery case management and relief services.
Baltic Street AEH
Baltic Street, AEH, Inc. is a peer-run not-for-profit corporation dedicated to improving the quality of life for people living with mental illness. Located in New York City, their recovery-oriented services help recipients obtain jobs, housing, social supports, education, vocational training, entitlements, and other life-enhancing services. Baltic Street, AEH, Inc. believes that individuals can and do recover from mental illness. We work to support recovery efforts and to decrease the stigma and alienation related to mental health diagnoses. We believe that all persons should be treated with respect and compassion, and we value the rights of all persons to transform their lives.
Venture House is a non-profit, community based mental health agency, serving adults diagnosed with serious mental illness. They support individuals in finding quality of life through improved access to education, employment, community engagement, and a lifetime of meaningful social connection.
Venture House utilizes the Clubhouse approach to psychosocial rehabilitation, which is a unique model rooted in the notion that engagement in purposeful activity brings meaning to life and promotes health and wellness. To that end, members of the Clubhouse work side by side with staff to run day-to-day operations, including facility maintenance, culinary, clerical, program planning and development, as well as advocacy and recreation. Members are involved in all aspects of decision-making, including on the Board level.