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Guide to the CITYarts Inc. Records
1969-2016
 MS 3096

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Sydney Bebon and Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 04, 2021
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical / Historical

As stated on its website, CITYarts is a nonprofit public arts and education organization that engages youth with professional artists in the creation of public art, including murals and mosaics. The history of the organization traces back to 1968 and the formation of a community arts program under the leadership of Susan Shapiro-Kiok by the New York City Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Administration. By 1971, the program had spun off to become Cityarts Workshop, which incorporated in 1974 as a non-profit. Cityarts Workshop sought to both directly help community groups produce art, particularly murals, that reflected the community's culture and wishes, and to act as an educational resource generally for communities wanting to produce their own murals. Based in lower Manhattan, Cityarts Workshop initially focused its efforts mostly on its surrounding communities, including the Lower East Side and Chinatown, though it did occasional work elsewhere, notably with mosaic benches at Grant's Tomb. By the late 1970s, though, projects had commonly expanded to other Manhattan neighborhoods and other New York City boroughs. A 1980 inventory lists 31 murals on the Lower East Side and 22 murals in other New York areas. By the mid-1980s, well over 100 projects had been completed across the city, with murals ranging from themes of social justice to the movie, Star Wars.

It is unclear what may have formally happened with Cityarts Workshop in 1988-89; references typically say that it closed down then. In any case, in 1989 Tsipi Ben-Haim joined, or re-founded, the organization as Executive Director and its work continued, then and now under the name CITYarts Inc. While the present organization now points to 1989 as its founding year, that is a recent change from its prior datings to 1968, which is the date used throughout the documents in the collection at hand. Also, the organization's current (2021) count of over 330 completed projects includes those done by its predecessor entity from 1968-1988. (The collection includes a comprehensive list of projects through 2016; see Series I.)

CITYarts evolved in important ways under Ben-Haim's leadership. In 1995, she restructured the organization to focus on four programmatic areas: Community Identity Mural Program, Kids for Justice Mural Program, Young Minds Build Bridges Program, and the Windows of Opportunities Program. These programs remained in place through the 2010s and are reflected in the collection. Other programs also developed in later years, including Tribute to New York and New Yorkers in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and Global HeARTwarming, which builds an appreciation of nature and global warming. Within these overall programs, there are various projects. An important example of this, well-represented in the collection, is Pieces for Peace with Youth from Around the World, a project under the Young Minds Build Bridges Program. Pieces for Peace involves workshops in which youth from around the world form tile-size art works illustrating their concept of peace, selections of which are used in traveling exhibitions, an online mosaic wall, and Peace Walls, including those in Harlem, Karachi, Tel-Aviv, London, and Berlin.

(The above note was based on documents from the collection (see especially the various publicity pieces in Series III), CITYarts website, and other on-line sources.)