To Gary Chen, graffiti is not merely a self-congratulatory spray painted name tag on the side of a building, but rather a carefully planned and specifically designed public art piece. Gary, a 17 year old Senior at Boston Arts Academy, has been incorporating graffiti into his art since he began working in the AFH Painting Studio in 2010. And now, Gary’s love of the medium has been recognized as an exciting opportunity to brighten up our city’s empty wall space!
AFH is proud to announce that Gary has been awarded the prestigious United Way Youth Venture Award, with funding to create and implement a unique public art project. His winning entry, titled “Paint Boston,” has been given the go-ahead to begin production, and Gary will lead a group of artists in creating stunning graffiti murals all over our city! We sat down with the talented teen to talk more about Paint Boston, pubic art, and what lies ahead for him!
BLOG: How did you hear about the United Way Grant?
Gary Chen: Lesley Horrall, AFH’s Education Coordinator announced the United Way Youth Venture Grant during one of our staff meetings, so I worked with my mentors Rob Gibbs and Sneha Shrestha, and took advantage of the opportunity.
BLOG: Is this the first Grant you’ve applied for?
GC: Yes. I was new to this experience. The other groups that competed for this grant were mostly in groups of 2-10 members, but I completed this alone.
BLOG: What was the application process?
GC: I attended the first introduction presentation describing the grant and how to apply. Then, I was paired up with a coordinator, David Safaii, to help me plan and present my Venture idea to a panel of judges.
BLOG: Tell us more about Paint Boston. What can we expect?
GC: Paint Boston is a collaboration of local artists and community members to plan and paint a series of graffiti murals around Boston. I will create a flier announcing a contest with requirements and guidelines to submit sketches to me by email. I will then determine the winners of the contest, who will paint the mural. Paint Boston will help in reducing vandalism, encouraging graffiti art, and giving artists a proper space to paint in public. An educational workshop with Rob Gibbs (AFH co-founder and painting mentor) will be given during each mural painting session for people interested in graffiti art and the proper way to paint a mural.
BLOG: What are the next steps?
GC: The next steps will be meeting with community members to locate and confirming a wall space. Then, I will select the winners of the contest who will be painting their designs on the mural. I will also have to purchase paint, gloves, and respirators for the artists. After that, we will prepare the wall for the mural…and then paint it.
BLOG: How long will the project take?
GC: The mural paintings and educational workshop will be once every 3-4 months depending on the weather, since this will be an outdoor event.
BLOG: Where do you plan on creating the murals?
GC: I plan to seek locations in Roxbury, Allston, or Dorchester to enlighten the community with a positive graffiti mural. Community members are welcomed to view and join the workshops.
BLOG: What do you hope the reaction is?
GC: My goal is to decrease the amount of vandalism in the community, and encourage more murals and inspire a new wave of artists.
BLOG: How do you differentiate between graffiti art and vandalism?
GC: Graffiti art is a well thought-out piece that incorporates color, form, composition, and some graffiti murals have themes. However, vandalism is a quick tag of a vandal. These tags require little effort or artistic element.
BLOG: When did you first start incorporating graffiti-themes into your artwork?
GC: Graffiti has always been the influential theme in my artwork. My artwork originates from graffiti. Graffiti taught me about line work, light source, color, transitions, and more! If it wasn’t for graffiti art, I might not have became an artist at all.
BLOG: What are your career goals/What do you plan to do after high school?
GC: My career goal is to get a job I love doing, which involves making my art. After high school, I look forward to attending an art college.
BLOG: Who are some of your favorite artists?
GC: Artists that have inspired me would be the graffiti artists “Daim” and “Peeta.” Looking at their work makes me want to push myself to their level and someday past them…
BIG congrats again to Gary on this major accomplishment! Be on the look-out this spring and summer for his inspiring murals and feel free to submit your mural ideas and suggestions to him here.
For more exciting work happening in our painting studio, click here!
For more info on United Way’s Youth Venture Awards, click here.