Community: Well-Done with a Side of Fries

The final design for the new Shake Shack on the corner of 125th Street and 5th Avenue in the heart of Harlem

When the community sees young people joining together to create something of great beauty, there is a really synergistic transformation as part of the artmaking process,” Jolicoeur said. “And then you tend to have a lot of goodwill about the final product.
— CAW Deputy Director Karen Jolicoeur as quoted in Gothamist

People first

ShakeShack_Murals_Sides 2.jpg

Shake Shack is coming to 125th Street and Fifth Avenue. The management team of the popular burger franchise commissioned Creative Art Works to produce a mural that will wrap around the front and side of their new Harlem location, because they recognize the power of CAW’s Public Art Youth Employment programs to connect stakeholders – including our Youth Apprentices – to their communities. Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack, has built his success on a people-centered business philosophy; likewise, Creative Art Works operates from an asset model of education, which recognizes that young people bring a lot to the table, including creativity, energy, enthusiasm and valuable insights about their own neighborhoods. It feels as if Shake Shack and CAW go together like burgers and fries.

An All-Star Team

The Shake Shack All Stars brainstorming design ideas

CAW assembled a team of all-star Youth Apprentices from our 2018 summer programs for the Shake Shack commission. Not only did each of these young artists display qualities such as leadership, hard work, reliability and team spirit, they all live, go to school, or have roots in Harlem. This project also reunites Teaching Artist Valerie Hallier and Teaching Artist Assistant and Harlem resident Michael Mitchell, who worked together last summer. Together, they dubbed themselves, Team Double Vision, because the have all worked on at least one previous mural project.


Team Double Vision

A Design by the community, about the community, for the community

Preliminary design sketches

Team Double Vision wanted to create a mural that would connect Shake Shack with the community, making the store a place to gather, enjoy friends and family and build community. Their strategy was to reflect Harlem’s rich culture, both past and present.

The team found inspiration in the sights and sounds of Harlem, including music and dance, the constant movement on 125th Street, the natural beauty of Morningside and Marcus Garvey Parks, the wide range of hairstyles that reflect the diversity of a dynamic neighborhood, above all, in the vibrancy of the people. All of these elements came together in the final design, in which fine white lines seem to float above bold, energetic geometric shapes to create a sense of energy and fun. The filigree lines flow like branches, roots, and wild hair to form portraits of the team members themselves.

Shake Shack Harlem will open in a few months. Stay tuned for an open invitation to a the public unveiling.