Bronx students win chance to display designs outside Murray Hill church

A rendering of the Church of the Incarnation's scaffolding designed by students from Hostos Community College in the Bronx. Credit: José Martínez, Miguelina Curiel and Ebenezer Arthur
A rendering of the Church of the Incarnation’s scaffolding designed by students from Hostos Community College in the Bronx.
Credit: José Martínez, Miguelina Curiel and Ebenezer Arthur

Three art students from the Bronx won an opportunity to display their designs outside a Manhattan church Monday.

Late last year, stones began falling from the Church of the Incarnation’s nearly 150-year-old spire.

When renovations began, the Rev. Dough Ousley decided he wanted to make the best of the unattractive scaffolding hugging the Murray Hill church and protecting passers-by.

“We thought we could try to put something around it that was both attractive and could publicize the church—something for the community,” said Ousley, the church’s rector.

Ousley and his assistant rector, Ginger Strickland, reached out to Catherine Cannon, an assistant professor of digital design and animation at Hostos Community College in the Bronx.

“For her students, the connection between the classroom and the real world can be harder, as opposed to students at Manhattan schools,” Strickland said.

Cannon chose six of her top kids to split into two teams and design banners for the scaffolding over July and August.

“We certainly work on projects that students can image, but rarely do students get to see their work out in the real world,” Cannon said. “This allows them to to understand what the client’s needs are.”

A rendering of the Church of the Incarnation's scaffolding designed by students from Hostos Community College in the Bronx. Credit: José Martínez, Miguelina Curiel and Ebenezer Arthur
A rendering of the Church of the Incarnation’s scaffolding designed by students from Hostos Community College in the Bronx.
Credit: José Martínez, Miguelina Curiel and Ebenezer Arthur

One of the winning designers, José Martínez, 23, said it was hard at first working together to bring “life” to their banners but that he was proud of how it turned out.

The winning design presents the Church of the Incarnation as a golden beacon in the center of a grey Manhattan skyline alongside a mosaic of orange, green, gray and yellow shapes.

Miguelina Curiel, 19, said they chose the colors to help the church attract visitors during the renovation.

“We decided to make a kind of puzzle to come together with different colors representing people in the different communities that would all come together in the church,” Ebenezer Arthur, 22, added.

During the design process, the students attended a church service and spoke with parishioners. The group said they wanted the banner to symbolize the institution’s role in the community.

Allen Cohen, a parishioner who helped judge the final designs, said he was their work was “moving.”

“We couldn’t have picked a better group of students that typifies sensitivity, what New York City is all about,” Cohen said.

Credit: José Martínez, Miguelina Curiel and Ebenezer Arthur
Credit: José Martínez, Miguelina Curiel and Ebenezer Arthur

Each member of the winning team won $400 for the design and the other participants won $100.

The money will go to tuition, the winning group said—part of the reason Ousley and the church chose to reach out to Hostos in the first place.

“I thought they would probably appreciate it more, they’re less likely to be from affluent families who wouldn’t really care about a scholarship,” Ousley said.

After graduating at Hostos, some of the contest participants will go on to study at the City College of New York and the Fashion Institute in the fall.

Cannon said the designs were a “glimpse” into what her students could achieve.

“It’s exciting to see how they’re going to do out in the real world,” Cannon said.

The winning designs will be installed next month.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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  1. Those nice students, and their teacher, Catherine Canon, picked the wrong church with which to cooperate. It’s great that they were awarded the money. But the Church of the Incarnation has a failed record on sexual abuse. The Rector, Douglas Ousley, actively covered up a sexual misconduct case a couple years ago, and got bad press for it. Lots and lots of people were hurt by his actions. He’s probably happy now that he’s getting a media outlet to make him look like a good guy.

    If the Church of the Incarnation were interested in helping those kids, it wouldn’t hire them to beautify itself. Hostos Community College needs a lot more sprucing up than a Midtown historical landmark with a huge endowment. The Rector and Assistant Minister live in multi-multi-million dollar apartments whose value alone could pay for dozens of scholarships. What Incarnation’s wealth and prestigious location have bought is the ability to cover up the fact that it’s an unsafe place for families. The interesting question is if Ousley simply hid this from Hostos, or lied to the school’s representatives ahead of time about the misconduct case.