Alumni Stories: “Where Are They Now?”

Colon pictured as an adult.

“I’m an all around multi-purpose artist… Any form of art, if I put my mind to it, I’m going to kill it — no matter what it is. I’ve always been creative.”

Colon heard about AFH through friends from school, and remembers the first time they brought her to the studio so she could introduce herself and sign up for the program. When they got there, Colon spotted Painting Studio Director/Co-Founder Rob Gibbs among cans of paint in the back of the studio. “Rob had dreads and he was on a ladder,” she fondly recalled, “And I was told, ‘Have your mother sign the paperwork and you can start tomorrow!’”

“AFH is a welcoming and freeing environment that I’ve learned to keep with me.”

Though Colon had doodled and sketched before, her first time painting was in AFH’s Painting Studio. She remembers her very first piece. “It was a joker splashing cards,” she said. “And the way it came out, it was like, wow I did that? That came from me? And then I continued painting and everything just got better.”

Colon’s first piece from the Painting Studio at AFH.

“[Without AFH], I don’t even know where I would be, to be honest. And it’s not just AFH and what they provided, it was the people that helped to provide it. That made a difference in my life.”

“[AFH] focuses on working with inner city kids and giving us the things that we are not normally exposed to,” Colon reflected. “Being around people… that were born and raised in situations like yourself — it was easier for me to stay around and learn from people who I can relate to.” Colon was grateful that the program was available to her and others in similar situations as otherwise it would be extremely difficult for parents to afford special after school classes for their kids. “To have this nonprofit be centered around inner city kids is amazing.”

A self-portrait by Nyviana Colon.

“Learning punctuality, time management, financial literacy, and all the things I unfortunately did not learn at home, stemmed from AFH.”

Colon reminisced on an art exhibition the adult program had set up for them. “The self-portraits that I created and the people who came and supported me by seeing the art was my proudest moment,” she said. With the confidence and talents she developed at AFH, Colon still occasionally takes out paint and a canvas to create. “If I feel a great attachment to somebody or a situation, I’ll paint something for them.”

A self-portrait by Nyviana Colon.

“Ever since I did AFH and then I went on to Year Up, it’s just been success after success, accomplishment after accomplishment.”

Now, Colon works at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as an Equipment Secretary and Unit Coordinator, having recently reduced her hours to part time to give her children more focus. Colon has also opened up an LLC to teach aerial yoga. “I turned my living room into a private studio,” she said. “When COVID hit, it was perfect because it was all one on one, and then when we were able to do groups, I did groups of five.” Colon has also begun traveling to teach in other states and hold pop up classes.

“I can’t wait till they say it’s the 60 year anniversary of AFH, or that it’s been around for 200 years.”

“Everyday was a favorite memory,” Colon said, reminiscing on her time at AFH. “It was that whole era … everything that you love is all around you.”

One of Colon’s works from the Painting Studio at AFH.

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