Fighting Obesity, One Step at a Time

September 12, 2017


This summer, two outdoor stairways in the South Bronx received unusual upgrades. The concrete steps, once the typical, drab gray are now covered in brightly colored, nature-inspired images designed and painted by Bronx-based artists Diana Perea and Josie Gonzalez.

These new murals are located in the South Bronx neighborhoods of Morrisania and Crotona where obesity rates, at 35 percent, are the highest in the city. The project is based on research findings that open, engaging and attractive public spaces foster healthy behaviors.

“Exercise is essential for good health, and taking the stairs is a quick and easy way to incorporate exercise into a busy day,” said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, New York City Health Commissioner. “Adding colorful murals is a way to encourage people in the South Bronx to take the stairs every day.”

Selected through an open call by the nonprofit ArtBridge, the artists worked with the South Bronx-based organization DreamYard to host youth workshops and develop the final design. The end result is two works of art that reflect the vibrancy of the surrounding communities. Perea’s mural, “Blue-Winged Warbler,” is located at Third Avenue and Weiher Court. It features birds and tessellated patterns found in nature. Gonzalez’s mural, “Rise Up,” depicts the legendary quetzal bird, a symbol of “liberation and movement.” It is located at Third Avenue and 164th Street in Morrisania.

Funded through KaBOOM!’s Play Everywhere Challenge, this project is the result of an innovative, multisector relationship between the New York City Health Department, the New York City Department of Transportation, ArtBridge, DreamYard, the Fund for Public Health in New York City, local communities and artists.

The murals will remain open through July 2018.