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Graffiti artists bring attention to academic burnout with new mural series

As students prepare for finals season, graffiti pioneer Lady Pink and a team of young artists unveiled a series of murals that bring attention to plague of academic burnout.

One of their creations, which is currently on public display outside 457 Knickerbocker Ave. in Bushwick, depicts young adults in a maze that symbolizes how students can feel trapped by school related stress, according to Lady Pink. 

“It’s very difficult to put abstract terms into visuals [and] to find images that tell the story. We’re not spelling it aloud. We’re trying to tell a story using little pictures,” she told Brooklyn Paper. “I love the challenge of being able to tell a story like that and being helpful in bringing awareness to mental health issues in any form is necessary and important to keep the conversation going.”

The mural relates the academic journey to a maze to show how trapped students can feel by their workload.The mural relates the academic journey to a maze to show how students can feel trapped by their workload.Photo courtesy of EduBirdie

Alongside the mural is a phrase ‘Ask for help before there is no way out’ — a plea from the designers for those feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork to seek assistance whenever needed, as an alarming number of students report feelings of burnout and anxiety.   

Lady Pink, also known as the ‘first lady of graffiti’ for being one of the first and only females in the graffiti subculture in the 1980s, recruited the help of two of her young assistants, Chloe Mosbacher and Matt O’Connor, to help with the piece — ensuring that it would be painted by young people, for young people. 

“I tapped more of their experiences as young people and feeling the burnout and the stress of not just school but just growing up in general,” she said.

The graffiti project is a part of a #WayOutOfBurnout series led by EduBirdie, a website dedicated to aiding students. The Brooklyn piece is one of four designs being presented in New York — with the others in Kingston, Poughkeepsie and Astoria.

A group of graffiti artists designed a mural, relating the academic journey to a maze.The group of artists hope students feel encouraged by the mural. Photo courtesy of EduBirdie

According to Avery Morgan, chief communications officer at EduBirdie, students often juggle school work with the stress of modern issues like recession or debt looming over them which can often add to the anxiety they experience. The mural project was EduBirdie’s attempt to spark conversations around burnout.

“At EduBirdie, we’ve set ourselves an important assignment, drawing attention to the issue of academic burnout and encouraging change to ensure every student has time to study, sleep and socialize during what should be the best years of their lives,” Morgan said in a statement. 

According to the organization, nearly 9 in 10 students report a “lack of quality time for studies and feel overwhelmed,” while nearly a third said “academic stress has hurt their relationships with friends and family.”

As a longtime artist who started her work at just 15, Pink knows first-hand the pressures young people can experience — and she hopes this graffiti project, which focuses on an important theme, resonates with those who see it. 

“You can’t do it all yourself. You need folks otherwise you burn out,” she said. “But there’s always a way out. There is always help. There is always relief if you look for it.