RPGA Studio is a Social Practice non-profit, founded by Yvonne Shortt, that uses art + design + technology + education + activism to address community issues. Communities we focus on include Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The methodology is question-based, and the approach is personal—much of the work starts in a little house in the community where Ms. Shortt raised her children. Many of the projects happen because of someone in the community bringing a problem to the studio and asking for help. Diversity in nationality, income, race, sex, and ability are vital to the success of the organization. 

Topsy Hair Salon

Yvonne Shortt and RPGA Studio are looking at hair as cultural identity, beauty, and beliefs. Hair Salon of Topsy installation is one of the latest projects created based on this idea. Many different hairstyles adorned by Topsies represent diversity, and the images will be fabricated as aluminum discs and installed on the fence of Captain Tilly Park in Jamaica Hills, Queens, New York. Thank you Council Member James Gennaro for the funding.

Anti-Bullying
Campaign

The School Fence Project created and promoted community involvement, and invited community residents, parents, and students to help design, build, and install art sculptures around school fences in response to community bullying. The fences are a perfect way to get people to come together and because they are often in the hub of a community they are great for an anti-bullying campaign for reinforcing positive community behaviors. In this Anti-Bullying School Fence Project, students get to express their ideas to their community neighbors. Residents become familiar with the issues students present and are more involved in school systems. According to data from Harvard University, those who bully in schools are more likely to become domestic abusers. Thank you Council Member Robert F. Holden for the funding to tackle domestic abuse at the root cause level.

Sanctuary

Hair Sanctuary, Socrates Sculpture Park (Long Island City, NY) 2021

Yvonne Shortt and RPGA Studio create Sanctuary together with the community. It is a space for discussion and self-reflection. Each Sanctuary includes sculptures created inspired by narratives collected from communities: In the Underground Railroad Education Center’s garden it commemorates all the everyday people who each took part in the Underground Railroad movement; Hair Sanctuary shares Hair stories which touches topics such as race, identity, equality, life, death and the list goes on. Listen to the hair stories here.

If you would like to share your hair story, email a voice recording or a paragraph to: share.hair.stories@gmail.com.

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One of the Afro picks installed around the Hair Sanctuary. It’s inspired by one of the stories: “My hair is the difference between life and death.”

Cinder blocks in our community have long symbolized decay but in this installation they are used to build a sanctuary.

Sanctuary, Underground Railroad Education Center (Albany, NY) 2021

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Students from the local community worked with RPGA Studio, learning how to use a level, circular saw, mortar, and to sculpt using porcelain clay.

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As you walk around the sanctuary little pieces exist in the holes of the cinder blocks. They are fragments: A grandmas shoe, relaxer, a piece of braided hair.

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Photo Jul 26, 9 58 20 AM

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INSTRUCTION VIDEO:

HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH YOUR ARTWORK WITH A PHONE

RPGA Studio has been working with public schools, afterschool programs and community members on public art initiatives. We created this instruction video for them to learn the tips to take good photos of their artwork. We have posted it online for anyone to watch and learn. Feel free to share with others who might be interested!

Empowering Ourselves While Building Our Community & Networks
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Creating a framework where 250 women learn and share

Building skills while advocating for changes in how women are portrayed in the construction industry

Building a design studio to practice what we learn

Age of the participants who learn new skills with us ranges from 17 to 65+

Teaching women all over NYC and then having them teach more women

Creating opportunities, access, and equity in our communities through activism

Using Art To Beautify and Activism to increase Quality of Life, Safety, & Health 
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Public Performances for reimagined possibilities for local public community spaces

Teaching skills to empower local community members and revitalize public spaces

Learn installation techniques to keep public art costs down

Teaching youth how to take charge and empower others.

Using crocheting to address homelessness in our comunity

Working in the community is contagious and often brings in more people- U.S. Army 

Bringing Youth and Seniors Together for Action and Dialogue
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Senior learning to use a miter saw

Senior learning to crochet from high school student

student learning to paint from an elder

Beautifying school fences to connect seniors and elementary school kids

Adults land children working together to revitalize spaces

Bringing members of the community together of all ages for transportation safety

Creating with Community & Getting People To Take Action using Public Art as a Tool
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Revitalized space used by thousands daily and taught design and painting skills to 30 youth

Collaboration with DIVAS to teach and have others take action

Collaboration with the DOE to advocate to reopen a park. Raised $100,000 and reopened a park.

Collaboration with houses of worship, 

businesses &

NYC agencies to revitalize a downtown hub.  Raised $160,000 over 11 years

Mural that raised over 130,000 for increased services 

The mural collaboration helped bring in a CASA grant for the following year for the partner organization for continued revitalization.

Boots on the ground to address safety, homelessness, and empowerment
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Collaborative build of a kiosk

Kiosk on the street  for transportation safety advocacy

Signing transportation safety petition

Creating salads so good the kids thought it was candy

Community conversations

Popup reading library kiosk

Rethinking How Art Can Be Used to Get People Outside and Healthier 
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Co Creating Sculptures increases knowledge and fitness

Running 5K's helps others grow their body and learn to make healthy choices

Giving out canvas bags designed by community artists in parks

Creating salads so good the kids thought it was candy

VR designed artwork to promote less litter in our community

Our Popup Library in park brought people out for reading, walking in the fresh air, enjoying healthy snack

Empowering Youth, Schools, and After School providers through  art, design, and technology
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Through in-school and after-school programming, students learn tools across disciplines, practice what they learn, teach what they learned, and use it to improve their community. See 3 examples of our impact on students and communities below.

 

1.Innovative design & Implementation: students designed and tested Hanky Family Kit plus advocated for structural fixes in their bathrooms.  Awareness helped Raised $230,000 by activating parents for participatory voting.  The kit for students promoted hand sanitization, personal responsibility, and innovative bathroom practices for 800 kids

 

2. Innovative Problem solving: To decrease bullying and religious tension in one school, students designed, funded, and are currently implementing the Acts of Kindness Video Game Club. They created a framework whereby each week students who are kind are nominated for the video game club.  Students can be nominated by other students, lunchroom monitors, and administration.  The nicer you are the higher the chance you have of being selected for the club for 1 week.  Students designed and held a video game fundraise,r raised 1000 for the hardware and got administration by in. This year the club will be run by the principal/

 

3. Teaching what we learn: Created a curriculum in 3d design and fabrication and trained over 30 after school providers including Woodside on the Move and Divas For Social Justice.  RPGA also created a design tournament that impacted over 10,000 families throughout Queens over 7 years

 

 

Women Who Build -
Artists Who Own

Tool Lending Library

 Thank you Eileen Fisher, Inc, small businesses, and over 400 people for helping funding this project.

Selected Partners: NYC Department of Education, Woodside on the Move. Manhattan Lab School, Queens Library, International Arts and Ideas Festival, National Trust for Historic Preservation, People for the Pavilion, DIVAS for Social Justice, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning
Thank You To Our Funders: DYCD, Council Member Koslowitz, ConEd, , Citizens Committee for NYC, Department of Cultural Affairs, NYC Small Business Services, Eileen Fisher, Burning Man Grant, Queens Council on the Arts
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Arts & Science Programs

Thank you Council Members Karen Kozlowitz for the funding for our arts and science programs, including 3D design and printing, stop-motion animation class, and school murals.