Alumni Stories: “Where Are They Now?”

Photo by Gesi Schilling

“I’m seeing all of these amazing paintings and I just couldn’t wait to get started.” He said, “I knew that if I was around these people, there was so much I could learn.”

Free’s portrait of Rashad Nelson, in AFH’s Painting Studio, made with oil paint.
Free Marseille’s self portrait, made with ballpoint pen on paper.

“I heard about this place that was filled with other people and, back then, I wanted to see what it was like to be around so many artists. It sounded like something in a movie.”

A still from a mixed media installation by Free Marseille.
The first commission Free did for AFH as a teenager offered a chance to take a creative risk.
A recent personal piece, KKLL deluxe edition cover, is the cover to an album Free is working on.

“When the painting wasn’t looking like I wanted it to, it made me nervous, it made me think that maybe I wasn’t the right person for the job. But I just took it home and kept working on it and it eventually came together.”

At RISD, Free earned a degree in Illustration. Photo by the artist.

“Being here and getting the chance to develop my skills gave me a boost. So when I went to college, I think I ended up working harder than a lot of my peers.”

The group of teens Free mentored in AFH’s Painting Studio, wearing t-shirts of his design.
Designs by Free Marseille for his line, under Free’s artist name S.O.T.T.M.

“Everyone knew about AFH. Our friends would visit all of the time. We always had our AFH shirts on and it got to the point where people who didn’t work here had their own AFH shirts. AFH was a household name in a way at Brockton High.”

To Free, AFH served as more than just a space that cultivated art and provided a weekly paycheck. He saw it as a place that developed links between people and communities, and provided a safe space for Boston teenagers.

Janelle Monáe’s “Dirty Computer” album cover art was designed by Abdul Ali, Joe Perez, and Free Marseille.

“After work, there was a large group of us, about twenty, who would stay after. Pretty much the entire teen staff would go outside and play manhunt or capture the flag in the parking lot. We were able to live as kids and have fun.”

“Butterflies” by Free Marseille, made with oil paint on canvas.

Free explains, “My first summer at AFH solidified my childhood fantasy of making art full-time and being able to make a living from it. That first summer convinced me that it was a realistic goal, and not just a fantasy.”

A still from Free’s short film called “LOR.”

“Eventually, I started desiring to connect with my group on a level that was deeper than just my physical presence and mentorship. I realized that in order to be the best mentor that I could be to them, I would have to step out and be as bold in following my dreams as I was encouraging them to be.”

A still from another short film by the artist, called “Ashes.”

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CREATIVE JOBS FOR CREATIVE TEENS

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