Press Releases

Alfred University’s Art Force 5 helping honor Atlanta’s first African-American police officers

Alfred University | 1/11/19

Art Force 5, a program that uses community-based art to inspire discussion on topics of equality and social justice, will be participating in a project in Atlanta, GA, over the coming three weeks that will honor the city’s first African-American police officers.


ALFRED, NY – Art Force 5, a program that uses community-based art to inspire discussion on topics of equality and social justice, will be participating in a project in Atlanta, GA, over the coming three weeks that will honor the city’s first African-American police officers.

Dan Napolitano, assistant dean of the School of Art and Design, and Hiram Cray, Art Force 5 teaching fellow, will accompany groups of Alfred University students and alumni on two visits to Atlanta.

The city of Atlanta hired its first African-American police officers in 1948. The Art Force 5 group will oversee a project in which community members will be invited to paint canvas tiles which will be used to create mosaics of the eight officers. Napolitano and Cray will accompany three students – Myah Darby, Emily Fedorchak and Anastasia Campbell – to Atlanta Jan. 15-17, where the group will engage the public in creating mosaics at various neighborhoods and sites in the city. The two will join a group of alumni that includes Alexandria (Hoang) Hubbell ’10, Mawia Elawad ’17 and Imani Graves ’18, Jan. 30-Feb. 1, when the remainder of the six mosaics will be created.

Once completed, the three-by-five-foot mosaics – each made up of 135 tiles – will be donated for display, possibly at a library or youth center in the city. Ultimately, organizers hope they will be installed at the former Butler Street YMCA Building, which in 1948 housed the precinct for the city’s African-American police force.

Napolitano hopes youth and current members of law enforcement in Atlanta will participate in the project. Atlanta is hosting this year’s Super Bowl, on Sunday, Feb. 3 and the group’s second visit to Atlanta will be during the week preceding the game. Napolitano hopes current NFL players will participate in creating the mosaics.

NFL Films has agreed to film the mosaic tile painting session Jan. 30; Napolitano said film producers will be reaching out to former and current NFL players in town for the Super Bowl, asking them to participate. Trent Cooper, a 1993 Alfred University graduate and producer of original content for the NFL, helped Napolitano develop the idea for NFL Films’ consideration.

“Trent had taken an interest in our work with police in Rochester and Harlem,” said Napolitano. “While the NFL or NFL Films is not sponsoring the project, Trent indicated they would be interested in filming it as a possible spotlight about the host city’s community and history. It was too tempting of a challenge not to step up and try. Regardless of whether the program is given any spotlight, we go with the same intent as all of our other efforts – to humbly serve communities through creativity.”

Other Alfred University alumni living and working in the Atlanta area are helping with the project. Kyle Torok ’02 researched the potential use of the YMCA building as a place to display the mosaics; and Steve Sparks ’97 (computer science) and Maimoona Rahim ’15 offered suggestions to Art Force 5 organizers. Traci Molloy ’92 connected Art Force 5 with the Boys and Girls Club of Atlanta, which will serve as one of the host sites for making the mosaics.

Founded in 2006 at Alfred University, the Art Force 5 has received national recognition for their unique diversity training and their interactive community-based art and has a proven record of engaging communities through creativity. In 2016, the group was awarded the Unite Rochester Challenge grant and designed opportunities for the Rochester Police Department to make art alongside community members. Throughout 2017, the team conducted a statewide tour building mosaics and raising awareness of 1917’s East St. Louis Riots through portraits of the leaders of the subsequent 1917 Silent Parade. The final works were exhibited at both the NAACP National Convention in Baltimore and at the State University of New York (SUNY) Central Administration in Albany, NY.

 The Art Force 5 held a summer residency on Manhattan’s Governors Island in 2018, serving New York City residents and visitors with engaging art initiatives. The program, which consists of student “superheroes” who oversee community-based art projects, has a proven record of engaging communities through creativity. The program is currently developing its 2019 summer program to include a return to Governors Island and a weekly series in Harlem with the New York Police Department.

Art Force 5 was the recipient of nearly $400,000 in state grant funding through the State University of New York (SUNY) Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and Provost’s Performance Improvement Fund (PIF). The two-year grant is funding Art Force 5 projects over a two-year period, 2018 and 2019.