Syracuse set to receive new mural, plaza by City Hall

Syracuse set to receive new mural, plaza by City Hall

The funding for the project comes from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Asphalt Art Initiative.
Published: November 17, 2021
City Hall will be the site of the new mural and plaza, which will be constructed in 2022.
City Hall will be the site of the new mural and plaza, which will be constructed in 2022.

Syracuse will be getting a bit more colorful in 2022 with the arrival of a brand new community plaza and mural near City Hall. Recently, the city received a $25,000 grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Asphalt Art Initiative to turn a parking lot by City Hall into a space for the whole community to access.

The city also announced that they would be partnering with Adapt CNY’s Public Arts Task Force for the project. Eric Ennis, the president of Adapt CNY and a longtime Syracuse resident, is excited for the potential the project has.

“We’ve known about the program for a couple years now,” he said. “We’ve seen other communities take advantage of it, and we’re kind of second time was a charm in terms of applying and being able to secure funding and support.”

Syracuse is one of 26 cities that have been chosen to receive grants from the initiative, which is entering its second year of transforming cities through art. Ennis discussed how City Hall was chosen as the location of the new plaza and mural since it was a space that has been utilized so much in the community for a variety of reasons.

“We had identified that area in front of City Hall as an extremely important civic space,” Ennis said. “We use it for a number of different things, from flag raising events, to different festivals to public gatherings. We saw it be heavily used for things such as protests within the last year and a half. So we know that this is a really important space for the community.”

While the initiative is still fairly new, it has already impacted cities across the country. This past year, Trenton, NJ, was selected as one of the cities receiving funding on the mural. For George Bates, a New Jersey native and the artist who worked with the city on the mural, the experience was overwhelmingly positive.

“I really believe that art provides a moment of thoughtful reflection, and a thoughtful reflection is really an act of kindness,” Bates said. “And, you know, the world could always use so much more kindness….So it’s a real privilege to be able to provide and reveal this sort of public art experience for my home state for sure.”

Bates created Trenton’s mural within the span of two days in August with local volunteers assisting along the way. While they had to work early and quickly in order to beat the heat, they were successful, completing it all within roughly two days. Bates acknowledged the brief disruptiveness of the project, but said it was “incredibly generous of the city to give us that time.”

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The initiative has spawned other murals across the country, such as this one in Reno, Nevada.

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Local volunteers got the chance to contribute to the creation of the mural in Trenton, New Jersey.

Cities on the opposite side of the country are also benefiting from these grants. Megan Berner is the Public Art Coordinator for the city of Reno, Nevada, and she played a role in applying for the initiative grant for their city. She was “ecstatic” to receive the grant, as “it meant that we could actually do a project here.”

Berner describes the process as a great experience for the community. They worked with Brad Carney, a Philadelphia-based artist, on the painting of the mural, and various volunteers from the community showed up to contribute. The result, according to Berner, has been a brightened space in the city and a unifying feeling among participants in the community.

“Projects like this, I really believe they can transform a community,” she said. “We’re gonna try to maintain our project as long as we can, you know, to keep it here. I know a lot of these are temporary. But I do think that involving the community was really key with what we did in creating that hopefully long lasting change in this area.”

Both Bates and Berner agreed that the Bloomberg initiative does great work with getting art into local communities. Berner said the people she worked with were all “very supportive,” and “great to work with.”

“They had everybody come together, you know, and learn from what they had done to implement, and so they kind of kept us on track and, and offered a lot of support,” she said.

Syracuse will install this project next year, and more announcements surrounding the project will come out soon. Bates is simply glad to see the project continuing, and is excited to see what comes of it in the future.

“I just think that it’s a great project, and I really think that just more public art, kind of everywhere, will create a dialogue,” Bates said. “And a dialogue on any level is a good thing.”