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NYC Health + Hospitals’ Public Artist in Residence Modesto Flako Jimenez Debuts New Works Highlighting Gun Violence Prevention

The new works are born from months-long engagement with NYC Health + Hospitals gun violence prevention and interruption programs and those intimately affected by the trauma

Works include an interactive mural at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, a gallery exhibit at Materials for the Arts in Queens, a modern adaption of Romeo and Juliet, a showcase at Carnegie Hall, and a documentary highlighting the health system’s hospital violence interruption programs

NYC Department of Cultural Affairs’ Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program embeds artists across city government to propose and implement creative solutions to pressing civic challenges

Aug 17, 2023

Flako speaks with students of Guns Down, Life Up at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln

NYC Health + Hospitals and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs today announced details of the projects planned by Modesto “Flako” Jimenez, the 2022-23 NYC Public Artist in Residence who is embedded in the health system’s gun violence prevention programs. To break the cycle of violence, the health system’s hospital-based intervention pairs credible messengers – people who have experienced gun violence and live in the community – with doctors, social workers, and other clinical staff who treat patients at the bedside. Flako spent several months meeting with hospital-based violence prevention staff at several NYC Health + Hospitals’ locations and in the community, followed by months of creative workshops with youth participating in Guns Down, Life Up, the gun violence prevention program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln. His residency is a program of the health system’s Arts in Medicine department.

The results of the yearlong residency include an interactive mural at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln featuring credible messengers who work on the Guns Down, Life Up team. Additional projects include a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet written and performed by students of Guns Down, Life Up; a monthlong gallery exhibit of art and photography; and a showcase at Carnegie Hall’s Resnick Education Wing with interactive painting, poetry readings, a theater performance, and a rough cut of a documentary about Flako’s residency. Funding for the residency is provided by NYC Health + Hospitals, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

“The creative process artists engage in to highlight complex issues includes collaborative community engagement and thoughtful interpretation,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Assistant Vice President of Arts in Medicine Larissa Trinder. “Flako’s yearlong residency has resulted in several meaningful projects reinforcing the essential role artists play in raising awareness of our clinical programs.”

“Participating in the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Public Artist in Residence program gave us the opportunity to work with Flako to co-develop and provide structured, tailored arts programming helped to further our community engagement efforts and longstanding partnership with youth to prevent gun violence,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President and Chief Quality Officer Eric Wei, MD, MBA. “As we look to bring our gun violence prevention programs systemwide, we appreciate partnerships to support our hospital-based intervention programs efforts and expand the range of offerings we can provide as positive alternatives to community violence.”

“Art can bring us together, help us to heal and reflect on our experiences in whole new ways – something that Flako has tapped into in a powerful way in his work with NYC Health + Hospitals’ Arts in Medicine department,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. “Gun violence leaves a physical mark on our communities and residents, but it also leaves very real social and psychological scars that all too often go unrecognized and unaddressed. Through his PAIR work, Flako has found incredible ways for young people impacted by gun violence to collaborate with one another and create poetry, murals, plays, and so much more exploring their experiences – a beautiful example of the healing power of the arts.”

“The work the credible messengers and the NYC Health + Hospitals team do for the youth experiencing trouble in NYC is astronomical,” said Modesto Flako Jimenez, Public Artist in Residence at NYC Health + Hospitals. “Watching them not only take care of the body but also creating spaces to allow the mind to heal after experiencing gun violence is real work.”  

As part of his residency, Flako is creating several projects related to his engagement with those who have experienced the trauma of gun violence firsthand:

  • Interactive mural at Lincoln Hospital: Designed and created by Flako andgraffiti artist Fernando “Ski” Romero, a new mural will be installed in Lincoln Hospital featuring scenes of the South Bronx and members of the Guns Down, Life Up community. The mural will include QR codes with videos, poems, and artwork created by students of Guns Down, Life Up and credible messengers.
  • Romeo and Juliet, amodern adaptation: Over a period of six weeks, students of Guns Down, Life Up are participating in workshops to develop a modern adaptation and performance of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Students adapt the play by adding street slang and modern English. Students are considering the kind of justice they would like to see in their community and how they might represent this through a modern, Bronx adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Students are introduced to the rudiments of the theater-making process and develop skills in acting, memorization, adaptation, staging, and performance while creating dynamic new characters based on Shakespeare’s plays. The performance will be on Friday, August 25 and will be free and open to the public.
  • Gallery exhibit: A gallery exhibit of photography, film, poetry, and other creations by the students will be on display at Materials for the Arts in Queens from August 17 to September 12. The gallery exhibitions showcase the visual interpretations of the adaptation of Romeo and Juliet by participants from the Guns Down, Life Up program, giving visitors a glimpse into their process using found objects, video confessionals, drawings, sculptures, and photography. Materials for the Arts, a program of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, is New York City’s premier creative reuse center, which provides NYC arts nonprofits, public schools and City agencies with access to a vast range of free materials and supplies. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
  • Showcase at Carnegie Hall: On November 14, Carnegie Hall’s Resnick Education Wing will host an interactive performance of Flako’s and the students’ work. The showcase will include a performance of scenes from Romeo and Juliet, written and performed by the students of Guns Down, Life Up; poetry readings; a rough cut of the documentary; and an opportunity to help paint the mural designed by Flako and Ski. The event will be free and open to the public.
  • Documentary: A documentary about Flako’s residency highlighting violence prevention programs at NYC Health + Hospitals will be shown later this year and made available to the public for free.

Modesto Flako Jimenez is a Dominican-born, Bushwick-raised, multi-hyphenate artist. As a poet, playwright, educator, actor, producer, and director, his work exists in and explores the intersections of identity, language, mediums, cultures, and communities found in his personal life and beyond. Flako co-founded the ¡Oye! Group, which has amplified new voices for over a decade. His recent immersive theater show, Taxilandia, was a New York Times Critic’s Pick and received an Obie Award.

With some of the busiest emergency departments and trauma centers in New York City and nationally, NYC Health + Hospitals has a long history of treating and responding to gun violence. The health system’s hospital-based intervention programs incorporate a multi-disciplinary approach consisting of credible messengers, social workers, and physicians to treat the patients at the bedside, mediate conflicts with the patient and their loved ones, and connect patients to supportive services to try to break the cycle of violence. NYC Health + Hospitals’ gun violence prevention programs also partner with youth to offer positive alternatives to violence, including peer mentoring, afterschool programming, job training, and internships. The programs include Guns Down, Life Up at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln; Stand Up to Violence at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi; Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI) at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County; Harlem Crossroads at NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem; and NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull.

The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs selected Flako as one of the artists for the City’s 2022-23 Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program, which embeds socially engaged artists within City government to propose solutions to civic challenges. Each artist receives a $40K stipend, dedicated workspace within their respective agencies, and ongoing technical assistance and support as they develop and implement their public-facing art projects. PAIR was inspired by artist Mierle Ukeles’ pioneering artist residency with the NYC Department of Sanitation, which started in the late 1970s. Since its 2015 launch, PAIR has placed 24 artists in residence with 15 City agencies. A full list is available on the Cultural Affairs website.


NYC Health + Hospitals:
212-788-3339; PressOffice@nychhc.org
Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund:
Jan Rothschild, Rothschild & Associates, 215-983-2157, jan@janrothschild.com
NYC Department of Cultural Affairs:

About the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund
The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund is a New York City-based foundation that strives to improve access and opportunity for all New Yorkers and foster healthy and vibrant communities.  The Illumination Fund plays an active role in supporting innovative approaches across a range of issues – ensuring that the arts and arts education are accessible to all, promoting civic service, and promoting economic opportunity. In 2018, the Illumination Fund launched Arts in Health, a multi-year initiative to support organizations working on health issues that impact New York communities and that emphasize the arts as a tool for healing and building understanding. The initiative’s areas of focus include the role of the arts in addressing mental illness stigma, trauma, and aging-related diseases. In 2019 the Illumination Fund supported the creation of NYC Health + Hospitals Arts in Medicine Program, expanding programs serving health care staff, patients, and communities in sites across the City. The partnership also enabled NYC Health + Hospitals to launch new programs that use the arts as a resource to promote employee wellness and resilience and to combat compassion fatigue. The Illumination Fund’s support to organizations goes beyond funding, as it serves as a connector and convener to enable robust collaboration across the City. In 2021, in part due to the Covid 19 Pandemic, the Illumination Fund expanded its focus areas to include the arts in mental health. For more information, visit www.lmtif.org or follow @LMTischFund on Twitter.

About NYC Health + Hospitals’ Arts in Medicine Program
The Arts in Medicine department at NYC Health + Hospitals seeks to foster the emotional well-being and promote healing and wellness for all patients and their families, employees, and the greater community by utilizing the arts, including literary, visual, and performing arts throughout the health care system. In addition to managing the system’s significant visual arts collection, the Arts in Medicine department encourages evidenced based practices and provides technical assistance to all of the system’s health care facilities and clinics. This is accomplished by combining artistic innovation and education into a comprehensive health care continuum that supports the healing benefits of the arts. For more information, visit https://www.nychealthandhospitals.org/artsinmedicine/.

About NYC Health + Hospitals
NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest municipal health care system in the nation serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs. A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals. Its diverse workforce of more than 43,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

About NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City’s vibrant cultural life. DCLA works to promote and advocate for quality arts programming and to articulate the contribution made by the cultural community to the City’s vitality. The Department represents and serves non-profit cultural organizations involved in the visual, literary, and performing arts; public-oriented science and humanities institutions including zoos, botanical gardens, and historic and preservation societies; and creative artists at all skill levels who live and work within the City’s five boroughs. DCLA also provides donated materials for arts programs offered by the public schools and cultural and social service groups, and commissions permanent works of public art at City-funded construction projects throughout the five boroughs. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/culture.