Audubon Mural Project Flies into Jacob Schiff Park in Harlem



The mural, Migrations, on the south wall of the gymnasium at Jacob Schiff School Campus. Image via Creative Art Works

The Audubon Mural Project has been a quest to create public murals of the 314 American birds threatened by climate change, and this month the project added seven new murals PS 192, Jacob Schiff Park Harlem, unveiled by 26 youth apprentices. The murals display climate-threatened birds on the walls of this local playground.

A ‘common redpoll protects a nest of children of immigrants. Image via Creative Time

Best described by the Audubon Society, “The apprentices drafted, sketched, and painted four birds that symbolize immigration and education, and the populations of which are also threatened by climate change.”

“Migration plays a major role in the project’s concept, with each of the four birds being migrants that spent at least part of their lives in the U.S. In the central mural, a Common Redpoll stands atop a nest filled with four children of differing backgrounds. According to the muralists, the Redpoll is protecting the children and handing one of them a pencil, which symbolizes knowledge. The other three birds, the White-faced Ibis, Bank Swallow, and Northern Shoveler, sit on the parapets adjacent to the playground, and are designed to connect aesthetically with the central piece.”

‘Migration’ spans the retaining walls that line the central walkway. Image via

“Jessie Novik, a 31-year-old muralist, teaching artist, and Creative Art Works instructor, worked closely with the apprentices in order to create what she describes as a piece that merges migratory birds with the student population in West Harlem, using patterns and motifs centered around bird imagery and migration. “Through several brainstorming sessions, through stakeholder research, through client interviews, we came up with a list of symbols, a list of themes, and the children chose from those,” Novik says.”

“The apprentices, just like professional artists involved with the project, have the freedom to decide what to incorporate, what colors to use, and how to symbolize their theme as long as it is not deemed offensive. After the initial design phase, they created reference pieces. Then, through process of elimination and democracy, reinterpreted them into the seven cohesive designs that they unveiled this earlier this month.”

“This is not the only way that the apprentices and Creative Art Works explored the topic of birds and climate change. Because Creative Art Works prides itself in creating a diverse range of programs tailored for a wide range of artistic talents, including photography and videography, this year’s summer multimedia youth apprentices worked on a documentary describing Audubon’s mural project and John James Audubon’s background, while also incorporating the perspective of members inside of the community. The documentary shows the pride that both the youth apprentices and members of the community share when it comes to Harlem and the beautification of their community.”

“Avi Gitler, the Audubon Mural Project coordinator since its 2014 inception, and owner of Gitler&____ gallery, initiated this partnership to engage a younger demographic in community work, and introduce them to both art and conservation. “This is the first project that we’ve done where young people took the lead,” Gitler says. “Kids designed the mural and painted the mural, and it has so much depth. For me, every time I see that mural it will bring me great satisfaction because of how it was created.”

The seven new murals were added with approval of New York City Parks Department, in collaboration with community education nonprofit, Creative Art Works, and Gitler & __ Gallery.

PS 192, Jacob H. Schiff Park and Playground is located between 136-138th Streets and Amsterdam Avenue, near City College of the City of New York (CCNY).

The National Audubon Society, Gitler & __,  NYC Audubon, and the Broadway Mall Association are looking forward to bringing birds to Broadway in April 2019.

Check out The Audubon Mural Project here.

The Audubon Mural Project on Google Maps, including the gravesite of John James Audubon in Trinity Church Cemetery at West 155th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway. Where Birds Meet Art …. After Dark