Upon entering the 5,000 sq ft, 3rd floor Painting Studio in the Artists For Humanity Epicenter, you can expect to hear the buzz of dozens of vibrant youth -most with paint-stained fingers- in front of easels, and working on colorful, unfinished paintings. In their midst, you will find Maggi Brown, one of AFH's wise and talented Painting Studio mentors who is an inspiration and force in cultivating creativity in the studio and a personal friend to each of the young painting artists in her group. We sat down with Maggi to talk about her background and what it means to be a mentor at Artists for Humanity.
AFH: What type of art do you do?
Maggi: I've done art all my life -- it's gone from realism, city scapes, landscapes, to mostly abstraction. I work in levels. Color is important. The expression of color is very important to me. Within the abstraction is some imagery here and there that I scratch into the work. I go back and forth between a few different styles. It's very cyclical, rather than linear.
AFH: You have an impressive background, having been featured in exhibitions at renown galleries. What made you decide to dedicate your talent to AFH?
Maggi: I was already volunteering with a group of young at risk kids, and in the process of working with that group - I met a group of AFH youth at a joint project at Faneuil Hall. I was very impressed with the AFH teens. I was doing mostly college teaching at the time, so I was already working with young people and art. After talking to Susan Rodgerson (AFH executive/artistic director) I started volunteering and then became a full-time mentor.
AFH: What does it mean to be a mentor at AFH?
Maggi: I'm a mentor in the painting studio. I work on a deep one-on-one level, as compared to teaching in a classroom with a curriculum. I can see where each person is, what stage they are at, what their natural talents are, and what they gravitate towards. As a mentor, you are also a kind-of counselor. It's wonderful, because mentors keep track of how participants are doing - not just with painting, but also in their school work. We also offer tutoring. I make sure that my group gets the extra things that they need.
AFH: A lot of AFH apprentices (students who are paid) at AFH don't have a painting background. How do you guide them to create art?
Maggi: When they start in the painting studio - their first project is to do a self-portrait and keep a sketchbook. Some of them do very well, some need instruction -- I try to incorporate basic skills with the way I teach composition, color, form and perspective. For the second project, each mentor's group works with a theme -- the mentors gather their group together and everyone makes suggestions for a theme and then we take a vote to select one. This fall, my group started with the theme of 'buildings.' Each artist was able to interpret the theme in his or her own way.
AFH: What's your favorite part of your role with AFH?
Maggi: Definitely working with the kids. It's a chance to get very involved with them as individuals as opposed to my college teaching - where you have them for one semester. Their growth is one of the most rewarding things.
To see more of Maggi's art, visit her website: www.maggibrown.com.
Pictures: Top right: Maggi with AFH apprentice, Curtiss Carter. Above: Cloud Nine oil painting by Maggi Brown.