What Grows? is the first piece of a long-term participatory mural project, titled After the Fire, initiated in 2020 by MoMA PS1 with artists Nanibah Chacon (Dinè and Chicana, b. 1980), Tatyana Fazlalizadeh (Persian and Black American, b. 1985), and Layqa Nuna Yawar (Runakuna, Ecuadorian, North American, b. 1984). The project brings an experimental, participatory, and collaborative approach to the entire process of mural-making, beginning with a series of workshops with three local Queens community groups: Transform America, Make the Road, and members of the Shinnecock, Unkechaug, and Matinecock Nations. These workshops sought not only to share ideas, but to break bread and build connections between community members, inviting collaboration at every stage of the process. Participants discussed elements of society that they would leave behind in service of imagining a more just world, asking: What does freedom and well-being look like? How do we nurture safety for everyone? How are Black, Brown, and Indigenous community members already engaged in building safer communities? Emerging from these conversations was a recognition of the ways in which the pandemic laid bare existing racial, environmental, and economic disparities. Participants imagined new pathways forward rooted in communal safety, collective caretaking, and regeneration. These conversations directly informed the vision for What Grows?, which imagines rebirth following rupture. Its depiction of a Shinnecock Nation woman emerging from flames suggests the ways in which the pandemic laid bare existing racial, environmental, and economic disparities across Queens and the greater United States.
Participants were encouraged to bring family members to the workshops, including kids, and were paid for their contributions. Meals were provided by Chef Blu Cheez and Ediciones Projects, two local chefs who focus their work on food justice and community building. The project also endeavored to forge sustained, long-lasting relationships with participants in the project. Many have been engaged with PS1 through ongoing initiatives, including residencies, Homeroom activations, and digital projects. After the Fire’s multifaceted, collaborative process is part of the work, creating new models of shared engagement for the future. The mural is slated for completion in 2022.
After the Fire is a part of PS1 COURTYARD: an experiment in creative ecologies, a series of initiatives reimagining the uses of and access to PS1's outdoor Courtyard. These projects, including a participatory installation by artist Rashid Johnson and a series of Thought Collectives, test creative and forward-thinking propositions for the use of public space, recasting the Courtyard as a place for experimentation and engagement with urban ecologies.
Nani Chacon, is a Dine (Navajo) and Chicana artist most recognized as a painter and muralist. Nani was born in Gallup, New Mexico and grew up on both the Navajo reservation and in New Mexico. Her most notable works have been within the public arts sector, in which she has a cumulative experience of over 20 years. She began a prolific career as a graffiti writer, and continued this practice for the next ten years. In 2005, she began exploring other mediums and developed strong aptitude in painting, illustration and design. In 2012, she returned to the public eye creating work on walls. Soon this work transpired to create murals and large scale public works. A return to working on walls and in a public setting was a natural progression that facilitates the content of her work as well as personal philosophy that art should be accessible and a meaningful catalyst for social change. Community-based arts and educational integration are also a key component of the work Nani creates. Her work has been recognized for its unique style and attention paid to site specificity, as well as the integration of sociopolitical issues affecting women and Indigenous peoples.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is a Black / Iranian visual artist and Oklahoma City native. She is a painter whose work ranges from the gallery to the streets, using visual art to address the daily oppressive experiences of marginalized people through beautifully drawn and painted portraits. Her street art series, “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” addressing sexual harassment in public spaces, can be found on walls across the globe. In 2019, she was the inaugural Public Artist in Residence for the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Fazlalizadeh has been profiled by the New York Times, NPR, MSNBC, The New Yorker, and TIME Magazine. She has lectured at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Brooklyn Museum, New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, several universities including Stanford, Brown, USC, and Pratt Institute. Fazlalizadeh’s work can be seen on Spike Lee's Netflix series, She's Gotta Have It, for which she also served as the show's art consultant. In 2020, Tatyana's debut book Stop Telling Women to Smile: Stories of Street Harassment and How We're Taking Back Our Power released from Seal Press. She is based in Brooklyn, NY.
Layqa Nuna Yawar (b. Cuenca, Ecuador, 1984) is a public artist and multidisciplinary storyteller based in the unceded lands of the Lenni-Lenape: current day Newark, NJ. His work is best known for large scale community-based murals, intricate portrait paintings, and multimedia projects that center the complex narratives of immigrant, Black, Indigenous, and subaltern populations. His artwork aims to disrupt established semiotic systems and reimagine them in service of shared liberation and a better future.
Layqa's name is an invention that honors and reclaims the Kichwa-Kañari side of his mixed descent. His praxis is driven by the act of reclaiming history as well as the inherent rupture and repair of the immigrant experience. His work exists at the intersection between migrant alienation and belonging, cross-cultural identity and decolonization, and between private and public space.
His work has been recently awarded a Monument Lab Research Residency, a Creative Catalyst Fund Fellowship by the City of Newark, and a Moving Walls Fellowship by Open Society Foundations, among other awards. Layqa has held multiple teaching residencies, including projects with the United Nations World Food Programme, Casita Maria, and Rutgers University. He has exhibited at El Museo del Barrio, the Newark Museum, and The Zimmerli Art Museum, among others.
His murals can be found in cities and communities around the world.