The Art of Storytelling

With the $500 grant I was given at Eat Dinner, Fund an Artist, I purchased all the supplies needed for a series of workshops I held in August, 2011 with the boys from the Pima Prevention Program, Sin Puertas.

Working with these boys at times was a little difficult because each of them had personal situations and issues. However, I was able to relate to them through my experiences as a graffiti artist who grew up in East Los Angeles. I focused on teaching them how to freestyle paint on recycled wood and plexiglass. It seemed to help build trust and respect with
them as I shared my personal stories of how I got started and let them
know how my start in art was similar to theirs.
The workshops started slowly because some of the boys didn’t know how to draw but I continued to encourage them to let their guards down so they could see what was inside the paint.

One of the pieces created with one of the boys (let’s call him John as reference) really came together as the weeks went by. He had first painted several colors on a piece of old wood within the first 15 minutes during the first class and said he was done. I pushed him to keep working on the piece, but he kept telling me it was finished. I asked him focus with me on the drying paint, and I pointed out a few shapes I could see and I outlined a figure. He and some of the other boys were really excited, because they hadn’t thought about looking for shapes in the paint that could help bring a lot more to the painting. With the added inspiration of looking deeper into what they had already painted, they were eager to add more to each of their paintings.

I brought in some recycled plexiglass pieces into the following class and asked the boys to use some of their graffiti talents on them. Most of them painted their names in various graffiti fonts on the plexiglass. They enjoyed this even though their counselors did not allow any gang or crew affiliations to be written, just their names. After class I set their paintings along a wall so that I could let them dry as I cleaned and packed everything up for the day. As I kept walking past the paintings and plexiglass pieces, I was very drawn to the pieces created by John. I decided that I would surprise him at the next class by bringing in his two pieces of art merged into one! So that’s just what I did, I connected the pieces with some long screws to make it look a little 3-dimensional.

(Artwork created by Sin Puertas youth “John”)

      (another artwork created by a Sin Puertas youth)

I was so excited to see the look on John’s face at class, but his counselor broke the news to me that he has gotten himself into trouble and was sent to Juvenal detention. Although I was unable to show John his piece of artwork, I shared it with the other boys in the class and they were so very excited to see how a little imagination merged the two pieces into really cool artwork! I also shared with them that I had posted a photo of the piece on my Facebook page and received several great comments about it in hopes that they would hear my message that a life of trouble isn’t so necessary, and that focusing energy on artwork or any other positive interest can leave to wonderful things in life. My work with these boys was inspiring for me, and I hope to be able to continue to work with the youth in our community!!