Skip to content
CityLab
Design

Can Murals Change a Neighborhood?

In New York's Brownsville community, a large-scale art project aims to do more than just beautify. 
"Brownsville Moving Forward" is at one of the neighborhood's central intersections, where Pitkin Avenue crosses Mother Gaston Boulevard.
"Brownsville Moving Forward" is at one of the neighborhood's central intersections, where Pitkin Avenue crosses Mother Gaston Boulevard.Sarah Goodyear

The B14 bus sighed to a stop on Mother Gaston Boulevard in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Inside, a teenage girl turned in her seat to gaze idly out of the window. Then her eye fell on something worth looking at: the new mural painted on the side of a building at the corner of Mother Gaston and Pitkin Avenue. “Brownsville Moving Forward,” it reads in tall, bold letters, woven through with images of the neighborhood’s heroes and its aspirations.

From the sidewalk, Patrick Dougher watched the girl as she studied the painting, which looked so fresh it might still have been wet. Dougher is the program director of Groundswell, a nonprofit organization that creates murals all around New York City with teams of artists and young apprentices. “That’s what I love about where this one is,” says Dougher. “It’s a bus stop. Think how many hundreds of people are going to see it every day.”