Bridging the Divide: Taft Houses, Manhattan

  • Andrea Arroyo, Nurture Nature, 2022
  • Gwendolyn Black, Reflections of Our Community, 2022
  • Dister, I Love My Hood, 2022
  • Coraima Santana, Resilient, 2022


The artworks developed for Taft Houses serve as an example of the successful community engagement and collaborations that took place in East Harlem. Workshops were hosted in the office of the Taft Resident Leader, a location that proved to be a hub for residents looking for resources. Bringing art workshops to the space allowed the community to discuss their concerns while engaging their creativity. The workshops gained momentum over a number of months, as did youth participation. These positive results have prompted the continuation of art workshops in the Resident Association’s office.

Photo Credits for all Taft Houses artworks: Paul Katcher

Andrea Arroyo, Nurture Nature, 2022

Nurture Nature is a celebration of life in New York City. The imagery was inspired by the beauty and resilience of the Taft Houses’ East Harlem community. The piece features various elements symbolizing universal values. For instance, blue swirls—invoking the Aztec symbol for speech—represent the voices of the community, while butterflies represent the contributions of immigrant populations. Throughout the design, flowing, colorful human figures represent diversity and adaptability. The bouquets of flowers represent growth and resilience.

1345 5th Avenue, New York, NY | @andreaarroyoart

Gwendolyn Black, Reflections of Our Community, 2022

Reflections of Our Community combines imagery expressing the artist’s own experience of living in public housing with those shared by adults and youth during her art workshops at Taft Houses. Themes of deep community bonds, pride in heritage, and beauty of place, are depicted through the patterning of people, color, and flora. Specific elements, like the church building, a school, and the image of an NBA player, were included because of suggestions made by workshop participants. The occasional floating eye represents ancestors.

1735 Madison Avenue, New York, NY

Dister, I Love My Hood, 2022

I Love My Hood by Dister portrays the vibrancy of Harlem through a Hip Hop lens. Bold lines and arrows weave in and out of a typical New York City streetscape. A fire hydrant, chimi truck, and pigeon share the scene with depictions of people engaging in everyday life and expressing themselves. The artwork mirrors the eclectic power that emanates from the city’s uptown streets.

1695 Madison Avenue, New York, NY | @dister  

Coraima Santana, Resilient, 2022

Coraima Santana’s Resilient is dedicated to her sister Yomaira. It represents the beauty of growth and reconnection. The array of people, patterns, colors, and nature depicted within the work is an homage to utilizing the inherent beauty of the world to heal. The artist wants to emphasize that life, as it exists within us and around us, is a blessing. The overlaying graphic lines and colors are inspired by nature and are intended to be a source of tranquility and resilience.

1385 5th Avenue, New York, NY | @coripoderosa

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Bridging the Divide