I bought this piece last June at an amazing art show at The State House sponsored by the Mass. Department of Youth Services. (“Tommy” is an assumed name, to protect the artist’s anonymity.)
The piece drew me from across the room because it was familiar—it reminded me of so many young men I see on the T and around my neighborhood. I was also drawn by the drama of the color choices, and I was moved by the emotions revealed in those eyes. I knew I had to purchase the piece, though, when I read Tommy’s simple artist’s statement:
“I was really intimidated by this project, but I finally finished it.”
I love that I live in a state where there are art teachers within the Department of Youth Services. And I love that Tommy’s art teacher pushed him to do something really hard, and that the art teacher knew he could accomplish it, even if Tommy didn’t. And I love that Tommy stuck with it. But most of all, I love that Tommy had the courage to admit he had been intimidated.
Giving young people the opportunities and supports to succeed at things they couldn’t imagine they could accomplish—isn’t this what powerful youth development programs accomplish? And in the arts, the added benefit is that young people produce a powerful connection with others, whether they know it or not.
Tommy was able to work through his fears to create something very strong and beautiful. Now, hanging on my wall, I can look at Tommy’s work to encourage me to push through my own fears and get a difficult job done.
Thanks, Tommy, wherever you are.