In this current climate, NYC youth need a public platform to express themselves on current issues

in a constructive, creative and powerful way to effect social change

CEI BENCHMARKS: Youth Setting the Standard for Social Change is a comprehensive, student arts residency program that inspires young people to confront major social issues and become engaged citizens through creating issue-based murals on benches for public exhibition in parks citywide – to effect social change (developed in partnership with NYC Parks). This program serves up to 800 NYC public school students in grades 5-9 in 30 schools citywide. Following a citywide opening event, the bench murals are installed in parks in each borough for a summer 2019 exhibition. After the exhibition, the benches are returned to the schools to beautify their school communities.

CEI BENCHMARKS Teaching Artists work alongside classroom teachers to deliver a robust visual arts curriculum that addresses contemporary social issues selected by students (eg., racism, gun violence, gender inequality, drug abuse, homelessness, bullying, pollution), includes visits with distinguished and world renowned Guest Artists, and culminates in the creation and public display of meaningful, issue-based works of art on benches in all five boroughs. This program is aligned with the NYS Learning Standards for Social Studies and the Arts, and the NYCDOE Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts.


  • Learn art skills, concepts, and techniques
  • Explore major social issues through research and discussion
  • Meet with distinguished and internationally recognized artists
  • Create large-scale collaborative murals for public exhibition
  • Participate in a high-profile citywide press event and five borough events with city dignitaries, artists and press
  • Gain self confidence, a sense of social responsibility, and strengthen team building/peer leadership skills
  • Develop peer leadership skills through faciltating a peer-to-peer workshop on social action and art


  • In-Class Student Instruction to examine the history and practice of public art, examine community social issues and ultimately create a collaborative mural on the surface of a bench.
  • Guest Artist Visits with distinguished artists at studios, galleries and museums.
  • Citywide Event (Washington Square Park) at which students unveil their social action benches and speak out on major social issues – dignitaries will honor students. Press event
  • Borough Events will take place at the five installation sites (one park in each borough). Press events
  • Peer to Peer Workshops will take place at which a select group of students become the teachers and facilitate a social-action arts workshop with an invited class – this strengthens peer leadership skills.

ALEXANDRA LEFF, CEI Director of Arts Education, 914.269.2460 /