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Murals at NYCHA senior center reflect resident resilience

New murals on display inside East Harlem NYCHA senior center
New murals on display inside East Harlem NYCHA senior center 01:50

NEW YORK - A series of brightly colored murals are now on display inside a NYCHA senior center in East Harlem.

Excitement electrified the air as artists revealed the murals they spent three years creating. The Carter Burden Network continued activities at the Lehman Village center for older residents, even as COVID kept them from congregating. Thirty-one artists found purpose in painting and coloring, including Diane Fenderson.

"It gives you something to do that you're not just sitting in the house and, you know, you feel down and bored and stuff," Fenderson said. "So I express myself through the art."

Neighbors who frequent the East Harlem senior center never felt ownership like this.

"You walk in and you feel, oh, this is where I belong," said William Dionne, executive director of the Carter Burden Network. "This is home, and these people are welcoming and want me here."

Maria de Los Angeles brought together the designs in a vision of vibrance, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts with a $10,000 grant.

"They did all of the work," de Los Angeles said. "I just sort of was the person being like, here are some supplies and why don't we do this and that? And they were pretty free about it, and that was I think one of their favorite parts."

These murals do more than just brighten up the space. Art is proven to keep the mind young.

"It's good for dexterity," Dionne pointed out, "It's exercise, so it's so multifaceted that it's really so special."

The designs can connect dots to memories and keep focus sharp while taking in the bigger picture.

"You walk by and you see your art every day. It's such a beautiful feeling," Fenderson said.

Not all of the artists survived to see the project's completion. Their spirits live on, in flights of color.

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