A mural to “make life better for those waiting to move on.”
See ChangeNYC & New York City Department of Design and Construction
Alfalfa Studio was approached by See ChangeNYC, a mayoral and DDC initiative to conceptualize, design and produce a large-scale mural to improve the cafeteria of Catherine St. Respite Center in Lower Manhattan
One of the main objectives of the mural was to bring a happy respite, a bit of brightness to an otherwise depressing environment and to create a learning tool. This was particularly important because the resident families of the shelter are in a very tough situation, living in beyond-sad conditions for too long a period of time.
In addition to creating a piece that will enhance the space and to be used as a learning tool, Alfalfa Studio’s goal with this mural was to give the residents a sense of ownership in their cafeteria.
To meet this goal, Alfalfa Studio gathered residents for an afternoon workshop designed to generate content for the mural.
The mural, inspired by the residents’ collected answers comprises illustrations of fruits and vegetables grouped by the month when they are in season in New York, as well as quotes from the residents themselves alongside renowned personalities ranging from Ovid to Stevie Wonder.
Alfalfa Studio principal Rafael Esquer is well known for putting his design talent at the service of the public good, reason why See ChangeNYC executive director, Lonni Tanner, approached him for this project. Eager to “give back” and passionate about the need to do something for New York City’s disenfranchised, Esquer agreed to donate his studio’s time to help the organization’s clients improve their lives through design.
Since the project kicked off, Esquer and his design team spent the July 4th holiday with the shelter residents—adults and children—encouraging them to express themselves with the help of games and questions structured in a hands-on workshop held at the Catherine Street shelter’s cafeteria. While many of the residents were at first reluctant to participate, many families joined the activities that would inspire ‘their’ mural.
Sandra, 6, has spent too long of her budding life at the shelter. “I love all the colors,” she says. “They make me feel happy; now I want to paint.”
LIFE Family Shelter executive director Alexis Molina commented on the need to provide nourishment for residents’ souls as well as their bodies; Rafael and his team helped to nourish that part.
Says Esquer, who estimates that he and his design team have donated around 500 hours to the project, “Throughout my professional career as a designer, projects like this have given me the greatest personal satisfaction. To create something that enriches the lives of people in need, like this mural, reminds me that design, beyond its commercial uses, can also bring inspiration, hope and change.”
The words of See ChangeNYC executive director, Lonni Tanner, sum it up best: “Making ‘LIFE’ better for those waiting to move on is the goal.”