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Construction Of New Monument Gives Bronx Residents Sense Of Purpose

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Swiss artist is enlisting a Bronx community to build a unique interactive monument – the first of its kind.

He came from France with a vision and a map of New York City's public housing complexes, and found the team to build his dream at the Forest Houses in the Bronx.

"Normally a monument is in a city center in a park or in front of an important building, so I wanted to do it where people are living," artist Thomas Hirschhorn told CBS 2's Amy Dardashtian on Friday.

Hirschhorn and 15 residents with no construction background built the Gramsci monument, working for a month for $12 an hour.

"It's like a little dream and a little fantasy," resident Myrna Alvarez said.

It's Hirschhorn's tribute to communist revolutionary Antonio Gramsci, whose ideas landed him in prison. Italian artifacts from his time there are guarded by trained residents.

But Hirschhorn said beyond his politics, Gramsci inspired independent thought. That's the message behind the monument.

"One of the Gramsci fantastic quotes means to be an intellectual, because he said every human being is an intellectual," Hirschhorn said.

When you walk onto the installation, it feels like you are high up in a tree house, a tree house nestled in paradise where you can grab a smoothie at the bar or dip your feet in a cooling pool, Dardashtian reported.

The plywood spaces make up a radio studio, library and performance space intended to inspire ideas. To the community it's a game changer for its youth.

"Everywhere you go there's violence, people having differences and you need something to bring them together, one little thing and this can be that," resident Nick Santiago said.

It's a source of accomplishment.

"When we first started it was nothing, but when we built it it was amazing how we did it," resident Janet Bethea said.

It's art bringing people together.

The free monument will open to the public starting July 1 for two and a half months.

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