Photograph by Karl Pompilus

Free Arts NYC students on their hopes for the future of arts programming

On the heels of the organization's art auction honoring Futura, i-D spoke to three young artists about building community and their dream careers.

by i-D Staff
|
08 July 2022, 6:16pm

Photograph by Karl Pompilus

Last month, Free Arts NYC — an arts organization empowering youth from under-resourced communities across the five boroughs — welcomed guests from across the art world for the much-anticipated return of their annual auction. Attendees dined in a room decorated with the works of artists including Eddie Martinez, Ana Benaroya, Kaws and the evening’s distinguished honoree, Futura. From the live auction and donations, Free Arts was able to raise $1.2 million and also launched a new scholarship program named in Futura’s honor, with the artist himself contributing $100,000. 

Day to day, the Free Arts Teen Arts and Alumni Program provides budding young talent with time and space to explore their creativity through mentorship, portfolio development and access to a “Creative Lab” that curates field trips to artist studios, museums and for its older alumni, help making connections to professional opportunities and paid internships at top creative companies.

We spoke to Paola, Rhesa and Sandra — three young women artists from the program who were also in attendance at this year’s gala — about their creative practices, their hopes for building a future career and their dreams for the future of arts programming in New York City and beyond.

Paola holding a piece of her artwork.
Photograph by Karl Pompilus​

Paola

What medium do you work in?
I try to work in most mediums, but I’ve been the most confident with watercolor and acrylic since those are the mediums I started with when I first started painting. They're easy to understand and can definitely be fun once you get the hang of it.

How do you think Free Arts has helped you in your creative journey?
Free Arts helped me in my creative journey by exposing me to how vast the art world is and giving me the opportunity to have experience with some of these careers. Originally I wanted to do something with animation; I was so sure this is exactly what I wanted to do after high school and nothing could change that. But after company visits with Free Arts, I’m more interested in pursuing something like storyboarding or illustration or art education.

If you had a magic wand, what would the kids of tomorrow have access to in terms of resources and training?
If I had a magic wand the kids of tomorrow would have access to anything they need in order for them to feel comfortable in their art journeys, I believe every kid or teen or child should have the opportunity to create art without the worry of supplies and where they’re gonna find the resources to fund or train them. I think all they need to worry about is what they wanna make.

Rhesa beginning a new artwork.

Rhesa

What medium do you work in?
My major at SVA is Fine Arts. Initially, I had a strong interest in figurative oil painting. Currently, I’m working with unstretched canvas, quilt-like works and tapestries, combining found textiles and printmaking techniques such as silkscreen and block prints.

What are your hopes for your future career? What is your vision for the future projects of your dreams?
My hope is to be a full-time visual artist. My current body of work is developed with self-initiated historical research relating to my family history and Caribbean cultural artifacts. I also see myself getting involved in the educational sphere. For my future projects, I hope to engage my audience in conversations about things of cultural importance and origin narratives.

What have you learned through Free Arts, and how does it compare to other programs you’ve participated in?
Being a creative requires you to have a community. Since joining Free Arts, and now as an alum, I can thankfully say that I have my community to lean on and grow with. Compared to other programs I’ve been a part of, Free Arts has proved that having a family dynamic and being goal-oriented can truly nurture and grow you as an individual and artist.

What are your hopes for the future of Free Arts?
Expansion, most definitely. The status of arts curriculums is slowly being channeled out of local educational systems. Young people need outlets of creativity to express themselves, and Free Arts has continued to be a great source of this provision.

What are your hopes for the future of community arts programming in general?
My hope for community arts programming consists of introducing wider accessibility to mediums like video, sculpture and printmaking, and focusing on low-income and marginalized neighborhoods. One of the goals of arts programming is to catapult young people into their creative process, but these are also helpful for amplifying their unheard voices.

Sandra posing in front of a white wall.
Photograph by Karl Pompilus​

Sandra

What has led you to be passionate about creativity?
It was great to see what I could produce when I first started making art at a young age, when art was more of a therapeutic thing for me owing to my own life traumas. I began by attending weekly art sessions at LSA, where I was first introduced to Free Arts NYC. My experiences pushed me to keep practicing in order to have a social influence and have an audience respond to my work.

What medium do you work in?
I earned a bachelor's degree in studio art and a minor in art history, and the combination of the two underlines my desire to practice my craft while also combining my knowledge of traditional art. I work with different materials like textiles, plastic and more in order to experiment. Sculpture helped to combine both my interest in design and having something practical to hold. The sculptures I worked on for assignments in class continued to explore my interest in art and design.

What is your vision for the future projects of your dreams?
I'd like to continue experimenting with different materials, but I'm not sure where this sculpture journey will take me. I know what I want my art to communicate, and I want people to be able to connect with it and take something away from them that they can employ. In the future, I hope to have a social impact and to be able to have the audience internalize my personal experiences. I want to give the future a new perspective on my own world, and I want to convey it as honestly as I can.

How do you think Free Arts has helped you in your creative journey?
My path as a young artist has been aided by the mentoring from various programs I participated in, as well as the skills I gained from internships and growing the confidence to speak about my art. Free Arts' resources were also crucial in inspiring me to continue experimenting with materials in my interest in sculpture.

What are your hopes for the future of Free Arts?
To make the dreams of a young artist like myself continue to be motivated in their own practice with the aid and guidance from Free Arts NYC. I believe in the values of Free Arts and that they will make the dreams of aspiring young artists come to life.

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