A youth development program located in New York City, Guardians of the City, encourages schoolchildren to become involved in their community by combining social issues with public art. The goal of the project is “to empower children to take ownership of their community and raise awareness for positive change.” (Check out our previous post about the program here.)
By drawing fictional superheroes for their neighborhood and embodying them with a superpower specific to their community’s need, local youth come to understand what is required to revitalize their living environment, while utilizing their artistic gifts to make a positive change. These drawings are then installed in public art spaces all over the city, which helps raise awareness of the issues affecting the area.
Co-creators Liz Belfer and Lea Faminiano founded Guardians of the City as part of their MFA in Design and Technology thesis project at Parsons The New School for Design. Since then, the project has continued to grow successfully. Liz and Lea recently completed their Kickstarter funding campaign, which raised $1,341 towards providing youth participants with art supplies and installation materials. The campaign was also beneficial in allowing children to expand their Guardian creations through different media, such as stickers, trading cards and comic strips. Liz and Lea recently answered some questions about the future of their project, and how other like-minded individuals can become involved.
Your Kickstarter campaign was an astounding success. How do you feel about all the support you received?
We are really appreciative of our family, friends and classmates who have all supported us. We also think it is really cool that people we don’t even know donated. Kickstarter definitely helped us get the word out about our project. It’s inspiring that people support public art.
You are working on establishing a Superhero Training Camp at an after-school activities center. Could you tell us a little bit more about this?
This summer we will have our first Superhero Training Camp with third and fourth graders at PS 18 in Staten Island. The after-school activities center at PS 18 is in danger of closing due to insufficient government funding. We will continue to ask what it means to be a hero and create art, with the end goal being to install the children’s Guardians to protect the center.
You recently met with Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson about installing the children’s artwork in local playgrounds and parks. How did the meeting go and what’s next in the process?
The meeting went great and his team helped to put us in touch with the NYC Department of Education and Parks and Recreation. We want to hold workshops in the parks and playgrounds to create art for the neighborhood. We are participating in this year’s Street Games Festival in Harlem and are going to be working with DreamYard in the Bronx, a project-based arts education center.
With all the new plans coming to fruition this summer, what can people do to help and get more involved?
We have recently updated our website www.GuardiansoftheCity.com so that everyone can create their own Guardian! We want Guardians to be all over the world, not just New York City.
About the Author Andy Prisbylla
Andy Prisbylla is a writer and documentary photographer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He compares his work to that of an advocacy journalist, where his role is to not only cover an issue but champion its viewpoint and purpose to the best of his ability. You can view his portfolio at www.andyp.org.