This past January, DREAM officially opened the doors of DREAM Charter School at 20 Bruckner—a 200,000-square foot, 120-year-old former icehouse given new life as a learning institution by renowned architect Sir David Adjaye. In this series, DREAM at 20 Bruckner, we explore several aspects that make the building special, further DREAM’s mission, and embody our belief that place matters—that every child deserves safe, beautiful places to play, learn, and grow.
As guests round the corner on the third floor of the new DREAM Charter School at 20 Bruckner, they’ll see a splash of bright color beyond one of the floor’s two lightwells. Getting closer, a 19- x 100-foot mural comes into full view, an original piece that depicts DREAM’s three-decade history, from its founding as Harlem RBI in 1991 to present day.
The central components of the mural spell out DREAM, with each letter encompassing part of the organization’s evolution. The piece highlights DREAM’s first summer and afterschool academic programs, the opening of the first DREAM Charter School, the establishment of DREAM’s post-secondary and career support services, and the organization’s deep ties to its communities and families.
“We’ve done murals all around the world, but a thing like this makes a difference,” said Bio, one of the founding members of the legendary graffiti art group Tats Cru, who created the mural for DREAM, in addition to many of the murals in the surrounding Mott Haven neighborhood. “It brings art and color into a space that would normally be bland.”
The scale of the piece pays homage to DREAM’s aspirations for its students, as well as the expansion that DREAM plans for its artistic programming now that 20 Bruckner is open. The light-filled, 3,800-square foot Arts Wing just beyond the mural’s walls includes 23-foot barrel-vaulted ceilings and views of the East River and Manhattan skyline, the perfect setting for ideation and creative expression.
And when DREAM’s Mott Haven Elementary and Middle School students move into 20 Bruckner next school year, they’ll already be well-versed in this creative expression. The budding artists have created several large works for the hallways of their current school location, emulating artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kehinde Wiley, learning the art and history of weaving techniques, and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, to name a few.
Most importantly, developing the pieces is often tied to larger lessons and themes that broaden students’ understanding of the world around them. Last year, for example, a self-portraiture mural was created in tandem with a unit on colors, and specifically, a lesson on the beauty of skin tones. Students then studied the finished piece and opened it up for class discussions, similar to an Art History class.
“It was a wonderful representation of how different we all are, and how beautiful it is when we come together,” said Visual Arts Teacher Elise Thomm.
Don’t forget to check back as we continue to count down to the official move-in for DREAM Mott Haven Elementary and Middle Schools this August. Come DREAM at 20 Bruckner. To see more inside 20 Bruckner, you can watch recaps of DREAM Charter High School’s first day of school and the official 20 Bruckner ribbon-cutting ceremony.