Yvonne Shortt, executive director of the Rego Park Green Alliance Creative Studio (RGPA Studio), is leading her team to create 64 14-inch concrete figures of girls to place around the city. The goal is to have as many young girls see it as possible and that the figures encourage them to tell someone about any problem they might be experiencing.
Last year, Shortt and the RGPA Studio worked with a community of local women to build a tiny house in Rego Park. Once the house was built, she used the space for a zen garden where she held conversations with about 60 women from around the world. Through their conversations, Shortt came up with the idea of the Simple Action series.
“One of the things we talked about in the tiny house was conversations about physical, verbal and sexual abuse,” Shortt said. “We shared this information with each other and then we started talking about ways to help other people who have had this happened to them as a young child.”
When she was a child, Shortt’s father was physically abusive and used to hit her. One day a teacher questioned her about bruises on her face and Shortt confided in her. The teacher then took action to make sure she would be safe.
“Simple Action is about letting young girls know that if they’re feeling uncomfortable for any reason, they should tell someone,” she added. “It’s also telling people that they need to listen. I told and someone listened and it changed everything for me.”
To create the pieces, they first produced eight figures, then made molds and lastly, casted the figure in concrete eight times. The process of creating the figure can take about 40 to 120 hours in addition to two days to make the mold and another day or so for it to harden.
The figures will be all-gray other than a pop of color in one spot such as their shoes, beret or mittens. The pop of color is meant to draw attention to the piece.
The original eight figures are based on inspirational girls and women in Shortt’s life.
Accompanying each figure is a metal plate with specific advice inscribed.
“If a person makes you feel uncomfortable, tell someone,” the plate reads. “If nothing changes, tell someone else until it does. I did and it made all the difference.”
The figures will be placed in parks and schools as well as in front of homes and churches around Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. The first figure will go into the Elmhurst Sculpture Garden within the next few weeks.
“I think the more that we get this message out, the more that people know to ask if they see something wrong and that it makes it okay for young girls to tell someone if something is happening,” Shortt said. “Our young girls have to see this. They have to run into it several times. Then, hopefully, they will say something.”