Minerva Diaz is using paper, cardboard and scissors to create a festive look at her apartment building.

She lives at NYCHA’s Riis Houses on the Lower East Side, where on the walls, ceilings and stairwells are birds, flowers, trees and now reindeer and a fireplace for the winter holidays.

What You Need To Know

  • Minerva Diaz is an artist who decorates the hallways outside her apartment at NYCHA’s Riis Houses on the Lower East Side

  • Her festive holiday creations are also on display at the Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side

  • Diaz, who was born and raised on the Lower East Side, returned to the building she grew up in to care for her autistic brother after her mother died from COVID-19

  • She hopes to expand her displays to other parts of her building in the future

Diaz, a portrait artist, started using paper for her work in 2017 when she created what she called a “Christmas Card Room” at a gallery for her wheelchair-bound mother.

She started bringing art to the hallways when she noticed a neighbor decorating for Halloween in 2020 and decided to join in.

Diaz was raised in the building, and moved back to take care of her brother who has autism, after her mother passed away from COVID-19 earlier that year.

“It’s like a big canvas, you know, as opposed to having to work on limited canvas, just to have things hanging. It’s fun, it’s whimsical,” she said.

People can also see Diaz’s work in the lobby of the historic playhouse theater at the Abrons Arts Center, the arts arm of the Henry Street Settlement Social Services Agency.

“It’s just a great opportunity for us to amplify the incredible arts and culture that is already happening in our community and just support it further and get some more eyes on it,” said Ali Rosa-Salas, vice president of visual and performing arts for Henry Street Settlement.

Diaz hopes to get even more eyes on the displays in her building too, which she has done for each season and different holidays.

“I would really love to turn the outside of the building into a Gingerbread House one year, and I would like to do this throughout the building one year,” she said, who added art brings out the best in people.