Concourse House mothers and artist-apprentices, Dayanara Savinon and Yafatou Sarr, both have created their own artworks and hosted art workshops for the residents of Concourse House. Their experiences in collaborative art have inspired themselves and the people around them. Below, they have reflected on their projects and the communities which they strengthened.
Árbol de flor de cerezo (Cherry blossom tree). Crochet, 2021.
Bayahibe rosa (Bayahibe Rose). Crochet, 2021.
Dayanara is a mother and an artist who specializes in textiles and public art installation. She began her career in public art by supporting the installation of Flores de Otono at Serviam Gardens in 2020. This earned her a year-long artist apprenticeship with Art Curator, Jess Rolls, and mentorship opportunities with artists such as Naomi Lawrence. Dayanara specializes in making crochet. Her interest began with making blankets and toys for her daughter whenever they were apart, and her interest continues through making public art.
In 2021, Dayanara was invited to create her own crochet installation for Concourse House. The Blossom Tree is a crochet mural which can be seen at Concourse House on the fence along 196th Street, beside other crochet flowers and artworks that hug Concourse House.
At first, Dayanara considered making an image of joined hands. But then, she saw the Sakura Cherry Blossom Tree by Naomi Lawrence in East Harlem. “In the picture, she had two little girls hugging in front of it, and it was just so graceful and I was inspired by it,” Dayanara explained. Later, she went to the New York Botanical Gardens and spotted a beautiful blossom tree. She thought, “Now I definitely have to do it.”
Dayanara managed the task of crocheting on her own. To accomplish the artwork more quickly and collaboratively, the mothers at Concourse House were invited to help stitch the blossoms together. To her pleasant surprise, many came to assist. “They helped me. We got it done quicker and we did it together so that made it more special.” In following workshops, Dayanara guided her students to glue pearlescent beads onto the centers of the flowers and together they installed the Blossom Tree on the fence of Concourse House. The installation was a magical phenomena. Dayanara, artist apprentices, Concourse House residents, and even passersby stopped to offer encouragement and help install the blossom tree. It was an experience of goodhearted neighborliness.
The collaborative nature of the project helped Dayanara with her anxiety and social stress. She felt blessed to do work which was therapeutic. She was happy to meet other people who do the same kinds of crafts. Her work has made new connections among her neighbors, and further strengthened the ones that were already there.
Dayanara is currently completing a new crochet piece, Bayahibe Rosa (crochet, 2021), a flower connected with her Dominican Republic roots which will be installed alongside our mothers and seniors flowers as part of our upcoming exhibition I am Blooming with art on the Concourse.
Poinsettia Flower. Crochet, 2021.
Yafatou Sarr is a mother and artist who specializes in textiles. Yafatou began making artworks at Concourse House by supporting the creation of Dayanara’s Blossom Tree by making blossoms, gluing beads, and installing the mural. This opened an artist apprenticeship for her at Concourse House with art curator, Jess Rolls, and visiting artists such as Naomi Lawrence.
A friend showed Yafatou a picture of woven placemats and she immediately wanted to make some for herself. She started studying the craft mainly through Pinterest and Youtube tutorials. Often, her artwork lost track of what was portrayed in the tutorials and it instead became her own design.
Every time Yafatou makes something, she hangs it up on her wall where it is one of the first things that she sees when she enters her room. It brings her joy to know that she made something wonderful. “It might not be beautiful to other people but it’s beautiful to me . . . I made that and it’s beautiful.” As she wove and crocheted her placemats, she thought of her friends back in Gambia who gave her encouragement to make them. They inspired her to make creative work however she wanted to make it. She could choose the style, the colors, and everything in between. As opposed to purchasing something pre-made, she could make something thoroughly reflect her. “Every time someone says, ‘That’s beautiful,’ you say, ‘I made it,’” Yafatou advises. “It makes you feel really good about yourself.”
Yafatou was invited to host placemat coiling workshops for the mothers at Concourse House and to make her own poinsettia crochet mural to be installed on a fence at Concourse House. While hosting her placemat workshops, Yafatou felt proud to share her talent and then watch her friends use their new skills to make artworks which reflected them personally. She believes that the value of sharing these skills is found when her students make these artworks at home, and they feel less trapped and like they are not alone.
Dayanara Savinon and Yafatou Sarr continue to make artworks with their community, from crocheting and installing murals to supporting neighborhood workshops. They are an inspiration to emerging artists in the Bronx and to mother artists everywhere. Their latest works, Bayahibe Rosa and Poinsettia, will be on exhibition as part of our upcoming Art on the Concourse exhibition and neighborhood art walk, I am Blooming.