One of Rooftop’s most unique venues is the gloriously gritty Open Road Rooftop, which sits above the New Design High School (NDHS) in the Lower East Side. NDHS is a small college preparatory school that uses their focus on design to assist in meeting the holistic needs of adolescents, including the academic, intellectual, social, emotional and artistic sides of students.
The school is deeply committed to instilling a sense of local and global community among its students and beyond. To this end, Ben Rojas, in addition to being the Assistant Dean of NDHS, is also an organizer for Trust Your Struggle, a collective of visual artists, educators, and cultural workers dedicated to social justice and community activism through the medium of art. Trust Your Struggle has facilitated community arts workshops across the country and the world, including at NDHS.
After two successful mural tours through Latin America the United States, Trust Your Struggle intends to continue its work of community exchange and arts education. This year, they’ll embark on a one month mural tour of the Philippine Islands, which is still recovering from the devastation of 2009’s Ketsana Typhoon. As aid workers now working in Haiti know all too well, the damage from deadly natural disasters often takes years to repair, and it is often much harder to do so once the eyes of the global media have turned away.
Cultural exchange is a major component of the Trust Your Struggle mission. Through mural tours, the collective meets incredible communities near and far, and while they let their stories inform the art they produce, they also take on responsibility for spreading awareness of their struggles throughout the world. As a part of the project they will create video segments and web content, showing stories of the communities they visit along with time lapses of the murals they paint. In so doing, they hope to virtually bring an international audience along on their journey.
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