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Press Releases

NYC Health + Hospitals’ Public Artist in Residence Modesto Flako Jimenez Holds Culminating Showcase at Carnegie Hall

The new works are born from a yearlong 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 modern adaption of Romeo and Juliet, a gallery exhibit at Materials for the Arts in Queens, 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

Nov 15, 2023

NYC Health + Hospitals and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs today announced a showcase of the projects by Modesto “Flako” Jimenez, the 2022-23 NYC Public Artist in Residence embedded in the health system’s gun violence prevention programs. The showcase, which took place last night in Carnegie Hall’s Resnick Education Wing, is a culmination of the yearlong residency with youth who have experienced gun violence, with a focus on the Guns Down, Life Up gun violence interruption program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln. The showcase included poetry and mural workshops, a performance of the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene in modern language, a short video documentary of the collaboration, and poetry readings. The residency is a program of the health system’s Arts in Medicine department, and funding for the residency is provided by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

Earlier this month, NYC Health + Hospitals and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs unveiled a new mural, United, about gun violence at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln as part of Flako’s residency. Artist Fernando “Ski” Romero developed the mural with youth who participate in Guns Down, Life Up. The ¡Oye! Group developed a workshop where participants used disposable cameras to capture their experience living in the South Bronx, and the artist incorporated those images into the final mural using silkscreen and collage. The mural features participants and staff from Guns Down, Life Up and is located along the hallways where the program meets, and it includes QR codes with their videos, poems, and artwork.

“Gun violence is a scourge of our time,” said Laurie Tisch, founder and president of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. “Modesto Flako Jimenez has done a masterful job during his year of Public Artist in Residence. Guns Down, Life Up is a groundbreaking program utilizing the arts to help address the trauma of gun violence experienced by youth, and to offer community and creativity as alternatives to violence. We are proud to support this dynamic and innovative program as part of the Arts in Medicine program at NYC Health + Hospitals.”

“Artists provide a unique level of support necessary and integral to the healing process,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Assistant Vice President for Arts in Medicine Larissa Trinder. “They’re able to view the world through a unique lens, one that gives them a richer view of our communities than others can. The past year spent highlighting our hospital-based violence intervention programs with Flako Jimenez was transformational in amplifying their purpose and impact. A tremendous thank you to Laurie Tisch and her Illumination Fund for continuing to support these kinds of projects through the Arts in Medicine department at NYC Health + Hospitals.”

“Each year, NYC Health + Hospitals sees 9,000 victims of community violence, and that includes gunshot wounds, stabbings, and assault,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Assistant Vice President and System Lead for Violence Interruption Programs Christopher Philippou. “Over the last 7 years, NYC Health + Hospitals has developed an evidence-based approach that has shown we can cut gun violence in half and also stop community incidents of violence in our high-risk neighborhoods. Flako’s residency has been a powerful and positive experience for the youth involved in our gun violence programs.”

“The amazing artwork and performances on display today show what happens when we invest in deep, long-term relationships between artists and community members,” said NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. “Congratulations to Flako and his collaborators in the Guns Down, Life Up program, whose creative brilliance is on full display here at Carnegie Hall. Investing in the arts means investing in our communities, and there’s no clearer way of demonstrating that than the remarkable work Flako has done with NYC Health + Hospitals through our Public Artists in Residence program.” 

“I spent months shadowing the violence interrupters at NYC Health + Hospitals and doing art engagement with the youth,” said Modesto Flako Jimenez, Public Artist in Residence at NYC Health + Hospitals. “I wanted them to archive who they are in a different way and put positive stuff about themselves in the world. Doing Romeo and Juliet in our own words was a way to talk about gun violence, opposing sides, opposing families. We also did a poetry workshop that asked the kids to envision themselves past the age they’re on, so they had to write a poem all the way to the age of 27. I hope I opened up a door for one of them.”

“We are proud to host this meaningful event from our colleagues at NYC Health + Hospitals and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs,” said Sarah Johnson, Chief Education Officer and Director of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. “They have been a great partner of Carnegie Hall’s education and social impact programs. We fully believe in their important work to prevent gun violence and support those experiencing its traumatic effects.”

As part of his residency, Flako created 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 and graffiti artist Fernando “Ski” Romero, the new mural is installed at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln and features realistic and uplifting scenes of the South Bronx and members of the Guns Down, Life Up community. The mural includes QR codes with videos, poems, and artwork created by participants of Guns Down, Life Up and credible messengers.
  • Romeo and Juliet, a modern adaptation: Over a period of six weeks, participants of Guns Down, Life Up participated in workshops to develop a modern adaptation and performance of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Participants adapted the play by adding street slang and modern English. They considered the kind of justice they would like to see in their community and how to represent this through a modern, Bronx adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. They were introduced to the rudiments of the theater-making process and developed skills in acting, memorization, adaptation, staging, and performance while creating dynamic new characters based on Shakespeare’s plays. The performance was on Friday, August 25 and was free and open to the public.
  • Gallery exhibit: A gallery exhibit of photography, film, poetry, and other creations by participants of Guns Down, Life Up was on display at Materials for the Arts in Queens from August 17 to September 12. The exhibit showcased the visual interpretations of the adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, 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 arts nonprofits, public schools and City agencies with access to a vast range of free materials and supplies. The exhibit was free and open to the public.
  • Showcase at Carnegie Hall: On November 14, an interactive performance of Flako’s and the youth participants’ work was hosted in Carnegie Hall’s Resnick Education Wing. The showcase included a performance of scenes from Romeo and Juliet, written and performed by the participants of Guns Down, Life Up; poetry readings; a brief documentary; and an art-making activity involving the mural designed by Flako and Ski.

Modesto Flako Jimenez is a Dominican-born, Bushwick-raised, multi-hyphenate artist. As an artist, 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: Press Office, 212-788-3339

NYC Department of Cultural Affairs: publicaffairs@culture.nyc.gov

Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund: Jan Rothschild, Rothschild & Associates, 215-983-2157,

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.

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 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.