New York: Designing a Place to Belong

September 16, 2022

In New York, Concourse House's artist-mothers began their participation in the unCommission by sharing their candid stories of STEM learning, reflecting on their journeys in high school, into higher education and apprenticeships, as well as their perspectives as single parents watching their children rise through school. In their art team, they discovered they were teenage mathematicians (Dayanara), they had overcome a fear of lightning by studying meteorology (Amanda) and they held a life-long dream to become a nurse (Yafatou). In reflecting on the unCommission storytelling process, they shared:

"At the 2021 100Kin10 Summit, we were thrilled to see ourselves, hear our names, represent our community and amplify our stories. Concourse House’s mothers art team are now honored to be a Community Art Anchor for the unCommission in 2022 and to go deeper what Belonging and STEM means to us. Our journey of belonging and STEM stem begins right here. With each invite, welcome and space you create we feel more at home to speak up and be ourselves in this world of STEM. Thank you unCommission team and community! Thank you for listening to us, valuing our opinions and celebrating our dreams to keep learning in STEM and expressing ourselves as artists."

Architecture and Belonging:

Concourse House approached this project by focusing on an in-progress architectural project, the "Sound Pavilion," in partnership with Design Advocates, New York-based architects, and education-partner The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum. During the height of COVID-19, pandemic, Concourse House moved many of their afterschool, arts and recreational programming into the garden and saw positive impacts in education, health, playtime and social bonding. Their project proposed to design a new outdoor learning and gathering space with and for the residents of Concourse House by re-utilizing their gated backyard, located off the Grand Concourse. Ultimately, this space would create a sense of belonging for its users. Taking shape as a pergola outdoors, the “Sound Pavilion” is a pergola structure, designed with a series of windchimes, which has each been personalized with stories, art, writing, objects of meaning, cast in resin. Created by many hands, the Pavilion is in the final stages of planning to be built by the end of 2022 or early 2023.

Sound Pavillion

Though the Pavillion is still in development, this sketch offers an idea of what it will look like upon completion.

Amanda reflects on the sense of belonging she feels as part of the art programming at Concourse House.

The Significance of Architecture:

In the process of designing, Concourse House's mothers-artists have utilized STEM at every step of the way, becoming architects, sound-engineers, and teachers-in-training through the process of designing their own learning and social space. In summer 2022, these mother-apprentices were invited by Design Advocates to teach high school students from CUNY Architectural and Urban Design Immersion Program. Concourse House hosted 30+ students to share their design process, participate in hands-on workshops and discuss our architectural project together. The Concourse House mothers-art team also delivered a lecture alongside the architectural team at the CUNY-Brooklyn campus. Together with students, they wrote this manifesto on what architecture means to them in their work: 

  • Storytelling, history, and representation
  • Building relationships and trust
  • Hope through expression, agency, and change
  • Belonging, community and home
  • Creativity and healing 

Concourse House, Home for Women and Their Children is a transitional shelter that was established to support mothers and young children who have lost their homes due to financial reasons, domestic violence, or other tragedies, with safe housing, social services and case management. Their approach is holistic and includes in-house arts programming, nurturing talented artists in our community with apprenticeships, teacher-training and artist-networking. Their mother-artists now lead a neighborhood arts program, teach across the Bronx and utilize their art for social change.

This art reflects the interpretations, beliefs, and opinions of these artists and community and should not be considered representative of the views of unCommission nor 100Kin10.