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NYC MAYOR’S OFFICE OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS AND DEPARTMENT OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS ANNOUNCE NEW ARTIST RESIDENCY AT THE HARLEM VET CENTER

Artists-in-Residence, the Social Design Collective, Will Work with Female Veterans to Engage Them More Closely in Services and Resources of the Vet Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 9, 2015

CONTACT: publicaffairs@culture.nyc.gov, 212-513-9323

New York – The NYC Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs have announced a new residency that will place the artist collective Social Design Collective (SDC) in the Harlem Vet Center. SDC will work with female veterans at the center on a range of socially-engaged art interventions, bringing them closer to the services and resources offered by the center. The residency is being supported by private funding from the David Rockefeller Fund through the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and public funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs.

"New Yorkers understand that the arts benefit our communities in ways both large and small, from educating and inspiring individuals to increasing the vibrancy and quality of life for neighborhoods in all five boroughs," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "This unique partnership between our Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs and Department of Cultural Affairs is just one of the ways we are exploring to work more closely residents who sacrificed so much to defend and serve our country. The focus on engaging women veterans with vital services through creative programming is especially important ­ forging new connections with a population that tends to access the benefits they¹re entitled to less frequently - and shows the visionary approach that Commissioner Sutton is taking to better serve our veteran community."

“This partnership will support both the veterans and arts community of New York City,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The artist residency at the Harlem Vet Center will be a welcome addition to the services that New York City proudly provides to our veterans across the five boroughs.”

“The essential role of story, culture and the arts in restoring wholeness following the experience of combat is as old as war itself,” said Brigadier General (Ret.) Loree Sutton, MD, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs. “Under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, MOVA is pleased to partner with the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the David Rockefeller Fund, and the Harlem Vet Center to bring the Social Design Collective project to New York City. Focused on engaging women veterans throughout the city, this pioneering endeavor promises to forge new pathways to heath, healing and well-being.”

“The arts have the power to build communities, explore issues, and highlight new solutions to some of our most systemic problems,” said Cultural Affairs Acting Commissioner Edwin Torres. “We look forward to working on this exciting new initiative with the Mayor’s Office, the Harlem Vet Center, and the Social Design Collective to help New York City better serve our female veterans.”

“We are delighted to support this innovative use of art in service of social impact,” said Lukas Haynes, Executive Director of the David Rockefeller Fund. Philanthropy can be a helpful catalyst but this would not be possible without the leadership of Commissioners Sutton and Torres and the imagination of the Social Design Collective, which I congratulate. The trustees of the David Rockefeller Fund look forward to learning of the many positive impacts for our female veterans. We hope it can be a model for vet centers around the country.”

“The Mayor’s Fund is committed to supporting veteran New Yorkers, and we’re proud to be working with the Office of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Cultural Affairs to engage female veterans through this dynamic new artist residency program. Serving those who have served our nation is a crucial responsibility on us all, and we applaud our partners in City government who are working to expand the resources available to them,” said Darren Bloch, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. “We’re grateful to the David Rockefeller Fund for supporting this program, and look forward to seeing the great work of the Social Design Collective at the Harlem Vet Center.”

Social Design Collective was chosen through an open, competitive call for artists. Starting later this month, SDC will work with the Harlem Vet Center over the course of 8 months to produce and implement artistic interventions and programs that serve as outreach to and sustained community building with female veterans living or working in the Harlem area that have not previously sought services at the center. Women veterans are often overlooked and face other considerable barriers that are different from their male counterparts when transitioning back from military service. SDC will work to address these barriers, creating a sense of community among the veterans and with the city around them through social gatherings, art workshops, and other activities designed in collaboration with participants.

“We are deeply honored to work with the Harlem Veterans Center through this unique artist residency platform,” said Jules Rochielle Sievert of Social Design Collective. “We are looking forward to being able to combine our efforts with Walter Bridgers and Ayanna Ahmand of the Harlem Vet Center to collectively discover and create new pathways of reaching out to and connecting with female Veterans in Harlem and across the country.”

“The Harlem Vet Center seeks to use innovative techniques to serve the veteran populations and we are excited to work with Social Design Collective to use the power of the arts to reach, serve, and build a community of female veterans,” said Walter Bridgers, Team Leader at the Harlem Vet Center.

As an integral component of building this female veterans network, SDC will collaborate with Christine Tinsley, an artist and veteran, on her project titled SisterVet: Stories from Sisters, Sailors and Soldiers – a participatory storytelling initiative for women veterans. Tinsley will work with participants to produce portraits, photographs, personal narratives and journals, and elements of sculpture to create a powerful visual campaign that seeks to unite female veterans nationally. SDC will explore options for online, social media and postcard campaigns and subsequent exhibitions with local veteran, cultural and community centers.

This is the second artist residency announced as part of a new initiative by DCLA to work with City agencies to enhance their services through partnerships with artists and arts organizations. The first artist residency was with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, where artist Tania Bruguera is working to engage undocumented residents with MOIA’s IDNYC card program. The MOIA residency was supported by private funding from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation through the Mayor’s Fund.

About the Harlem Vet Center

The Harlem Vet Center welcomes war veterans home by providing quality readjustment counseling in a caring manner. Center staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, understand and appreciate veterans' war experiences and work to assist veterans and their families to adjust back to their communities. The Center provides a broad range of counseling, outreach, and referrals and often works with veterans on issues ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, alcohol and drug use, sexual trauma, and suicide prevention resources. All services are free of cost and are strictly confidential.

About the Social Design Collective

SDC is an art and design collaborative founded and led by Jules Rochielle Sievert. Jules’ has navigated terrain between art, performance, social justice, collective art practice, and applied design for over 10 years. SDC uses a variety of art and outreach strategies to build community partnerships and networks that endure long after the artistic engagement ends.

Over the course of 6 years, Jules has worked directly with veterans through her work at NuLawLab (Northeastern University School of Law) and, through Lauren Bon’s Metabolic Studio. Through these experiences she has developed awareness regarding veterans advocate networks that seek to provide information, resources, support, visibility and new social networks for women with military service in their history.