Alumni Stories: “Where Are They Now?”

Tough Love

“I had no idea that I had this artistic ability to draw and paint.”

Lyons pictured as an AFH teen.
Lyons pictured as an adult.

“My 72 hours of apprenticeship were up and I had the opportunity to look at the other studios. I decided not to. I fell in love with everyone who I was working with, everything that I was working on, and the challenge that painting had presented.”

“You couldn’t always rely on what you knew how to do,” Lyons said, describing the difficulty of painting assignments.

“You had to be given that sort of tough love in order to grow. That was the support I needed, and that was the mentorship I needed.”

Client projects put her skills to the test.

AFH teens painting a scrim for the exterior wall of Max Ultimate Food.
The collaborative scrim at MAX Ultimate Food’s Roxbury facility.
Some of Emily’s paintings while a teen at AFH.

“My first lion ended up being my best piece. After that, I said. ‘I’m going to try another and another.’ Andy called me Lyoness, and that was my running nickname around the studio.”

“AFH had exposed me to so much. It showed me that you could have an art career, and it could be a fulfilling one.”

The pressure to sacrifice art in exchange for stability mounted. Still, Lyons craved a life like the one that she had at AFH, filled with passion, discipline, and community.

“Though I chased the ‘corporate America’ route, the itch for art never went away. I couldn’t hide that part of my identity. I couldn’t remove myself from it.”

“Maybe I would’ve gone to art school if I wasn’t so anxious about what my parents would say or thinking I wasn’t good enough,” Lyons mused. “Back then, all of these things were so heavy on my mind.”

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