2017 is just a few hours away and with this new year comes the new year’s resolutions. Have you decided yet what you are striving for once the year turns? Many people make it their goal to exercise, eat healthy, or maybe read a few more books, but a new year is about so much more than just these minuscule goals. Yes, miniscule. In the grand scheme of life are these things the secret to your happiness? Definitely not.
In the middle of January I am leaving the United States in order to study abroad for five months across the Atlantic Ocean, in London. As the day of my departure comes closer and closer, my parents and friends keep asking me why I have to leave. Of course my parents thought I was crazy when I said this, but I told them it was because I was getting too comfortable here.
I am someone that needs to be constantly challenged or I get bored and fall into a “funk”. In the last few months I have been experiencing this funk greatly. While I was happy, I knew I needed a change and had to push myself outside of my own limitations. What better way to do this than to move to a new country where you know nothing about the culture or the people?
There is something so frightening yet so exciting about living an entirely different life for a few months. I am ready to meet new people, explore new cities, and experience the discomfort of something entirely new. When is the last time that you went into something blind and alone? These leaps of faith are the ones that help us to learn the most about ourselves and grow into the person we want to be. It gives us a sense of clarity about what we love, appreciate, and want in the future.
If you have the feeling of extreme comfort in your life, go out and destroy that feeling. Move somewhere new, take a trip alone, or do something that scares you. You will never know what you can learn about yourself until you try. Nobody progresses anywhere by being comfortable in life. So make 2017 a year of growth and happiness, not by losing weight or earning an A in one of your classes, but by going outside and experiencing life.
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You may be wondering, what is the Houston Project? If you have ever found yourself stopping in the rag & bone shop on Houston Street in New York City, then you have definitely stumbled across this particular project.
The Houston Project is a public art initiative taken by Rag + Bone, in hope to raise awareness for local artists and add some inspiration to the city streets. Every month they recruit a new New York City-based street artist to paint the wall outside their small store on Houston Street. Some of the previous artists who have worked on this space include Nicholas Forker, Rubin, Yoon Hyup, and Alexis Diaz.
One of my favorite murals of the Houston Project has to be this pizza painting by Yok and Sheryo from back in June. I mean who doesn’t love a colorful slice of pizza!? This pizza slice definitely has personality, which I love.
This particular mural was painted by Marc Evan back in the beginning of October. I love the hues of blue and how they pop against the stark whiteness of the store. The lady in the mural reminds me of a modern-day Medusa with her captivating eyes that have the ability to turn men into stone. Evan is known for changing the communities he touches with his paint strokes, through his public art pieces. This mural is definitely no exception with the amount of inspiration and joy it brought to the neighborhood.
Walking around the city and taking in the art around me is one of my favorite things to do when I have some extra time. I could wonder around the streets for hours just photographing art murals, reading graphic stickers posted on street posts, and watching the unique characters. Without projects like this one people like me wouldn’t be as inspired by everyday life in New York City.
As you may have noticed, I have recently started embracing my natural hair texture- curls on curls on curls. I found it ironic that just as I began to do this, I found this art mural. This mural reminded me to embrace the wild, crazy part of myself that makes me unique- my hair. Art has the power to trigger, reinforce, or rethink any ideas you’ve been having. This is exactly why I believe a city like New York, which is filled with art, is the hub of so many inspiring minds.
Picture yourself on a crisp spring day, walking by the Hudson River in Yonkers, New York. You hear the sound of flowing water and birds chirping. Luscious green trees and bushes line the path that you are walking. You are surrounded by towering bronze sculptures, each with their own unique personality. These elements of nature and art come together to tell the story of the city’s past.
This is exactly the experience that Vinnie Bagwell is creating through her “The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden” initiative. What exactly is a rain garden? A rain garden is a planted depression that allows the surrounding greenery to be watered using rainwater run-off. Having this in place in the city of Yonkers will save water sources and reduce pollution in the area.
Not only is she helping the natural beauty of Yonkers prosper, but she is sharing its rich history through the personalities of her sculptures. Bagwell will be focusing on the enslaved Africans who once lived at the Philipse Manor Hall, a popular slave-owning household in Yonkers during the 1680s and 1690s. Six of the slaves that lived here were the first to be freed from slavery, exactly 76 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.
Bagwell aims to create a life-size sculpture like this one to be the main focal point of the garden. She says, “The strongest aspect of the Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden Project is that its underlying values and goals begin to address the righting of this wrong by giving voice to the previously unheard via accessible public art…”. Bagwell wants everyone to experience the emotions that these slaves felt by looking at the expressions on her sculptures’ faces. Yonkers must finally hear what the people of its past have to say.
When asked why she feels so powerfully about this project she says, “Despite the hardship and injustices of slavery, the enslaved people of African descent made important contributions to our cultural and intellectual life, and their experience is among the richest of legacies. Yet, there is no permanent, public, interpretive recognition of them”. Bagwell is trying to do exactly this. She wants to open Yonkers and the rest of New York up to the deep history that it holds but has forgotten. She is expressing this message in the most beautiful and powerful way she knows; through sculpture.
Be sure to follow this project by liking the project’s Facebook page, following Bagwell on Instagram, and watching this short Youtube video.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Lewis
Site-Plan Illustrations: Brown Craig Turner Architectural Design