Katherine Gressel
"Our Safe Haven," photo collage of entire mural"Our Safe Haven," (detail)"Our Safe Haven," (detail)"Our Safe Haven," (detail)"Our Safe Haven," (detail)"Our Safe Haven," (detail)"Our Safe Haven," (detail)"Our Safe Haven," (view in room with furniture)"Our Safe Haven," (view in room with furniture)
Our Safe Haven
2010, latex paint and stencils on indoor wall, approx. 12’ X 50’

In spring 2010, I worked with the youth organization STARR to lead an evening mural workshop for young children aged 6-11 at a domestic violence shelter in Brooklyn. The mural was meant to reinforce STARR’s conflict-resolution curriculum, and provide an inspiring backdrop for the shelter's Multi-Purpose recreational room. For this mural, I first asked the children to draw their ideas of a safe environment or neighborhood, and used this imagery to plan the background of the mural. I then discussed how both words and body gestures can escalate or de-escalate conflicts, and had students draw gestures and write phrases that help people avoid fighting. These became the basis for the large silhouettes in the foreground, which contain phrases in both English and Spanish like “Please calm down”, “I can explain,” “I’m listening,” and “I’m sorry—let’s be friends.” The mural was painted with the the participation of different groups of students rotating in and out of the shelter from February-May.