(Video by Deborah Cardoso)
By Alex Venancio and Deborah Cardoso
Music is blaring as Boston teens are hard at work, buzzing around easels, letting their creative juices flow.
Artists for Humanity (AFH) employs more than 270 of the city’s youth, as a way to keep the students involved and keep art alive within the community. “We are one of the largest employers of Boston’s teens”, said Susan Rodgerson, Founder of Artists for Humanity.
For the past 25 years, the non-profit organization has provided students with countless opportunities for growth through creative expression, and their impact is considerable.
“All of our students have been accepted to post-secondary education programs,” said Rodgerson. The artists have commissioned more than 700 client projects and generated more than $1.5 million in sales of fine art and design services according to the Artists for Humanity website.
“It’s not an easy job, but it’s easier than what most kids do. You’re getting paid to relieve stress, have fun and listen to music, paint, do what you like to do,” said Simone Gerald-Burns, a teen artist at AFH.
Located in South Boston, the epicenter of Artists for Humanity houses seven different studios.
“Our organization offers a great perspective for our teens and a great way to keep them involved within their communities,” said Rodgerson.
(Infographic by Cat Trudell)
“The art is a reflection of their surroundings and it allows the community to see their voices.”
From a teen artist to a mentor, Artists for Humanity has been Free Marseille’s only official job. “I think it means something,” he said. “All my work experience has shown me that it’s possible to be profitable as an artist.”
Like Marseille, most mentors at AFH, were former teen artists. That is the case with Massiel Grullon, another painting mentor, whose mother encouraged her to go to AFH on Saturdays because she was always drawing. “She wanted me to stay out of the streets and do something with myself,” Grullon said.
Artists for Humanity is not only a creative outlet for Boston teens, they also provide a tutoring program after hours. They assist teens with college and financial aid applications and take the students on college tours.
“I am worried about school and balancing this job. AFH keeps me on my toes about school.” said Gerald-Burns, who is a Junior at Edward M. Kennedy Academy.
“AFH is about to expand,” said Marseille, “the program is gonna be twice the size and we’re gonna be able to serve double the amount of teens. So be on the lookout for that!”