AFH Alumni Stories: Edition 02—Alberta Wright

“I took art in school but I never really wanted to do art because I saw the hardship my parents went through as artists. So I was more interested in studying art history or about art, not making it.”

Wright was first introduced to AFH in 2005 by a friend, Jesse Racusen, who she attended Boston Latin School with. This word of mouth network between teens across the Greater Boston area is a defining part of AFH’s recruitment method.

Painting by Alberta Wright made during her time at AFH

“Getting paid, getting to do something fun and interesting, and getting to be around my buddies was the motivation,” explains Wright.

She continues, “Jesse also invited other friends of ours to join and once I got there, I liked all the people and so the next summer, I returned and encouraged more of my friends to apply.”

The above t-shirt design was produced in AFH’s Silkscreening Studio, the result of a collaboration between Alberta Wright, Claudia De Piante Vicin, and Silkscreening Studio mentor Will.
Alberta Wright spray paints with former participant Sahra Nguyen and co-founder Jason Talbot at the Artists For Humanity EpiCenter in South Boston.

“The preparation and extra effort was important both because the art form is so sacred in a way — you have to earn it — and also because it made me live out that habit we need as professional creatives — to stick with something, to plan, and then to just try your hand at something new.”

The summer after she graduated from Boston Latin School, she worked with the AFH office as an intern, developing a mobile exhibition program. Transitioning as a teen to an intern in the office was an experience that Wright thought of as educational. It highlighted the model that AFH cultivates to include alumni as a part of its administration and sustainability strategy. This experience also opened doors for Wright’s future in creative employment beyond AFH.

Alberta Wright facilitating a community design workshop for Young Artist Movement, a city-wide youth mural program Wright co-founded in New Orleans.

“I was seeing how there could be something like AFH in New Orleans because there were so many creative young people. There were jobs growing in graphic design especially.”

Wright speaks with YCA apprentices, NYU Professor Nick Mirzoeff, and artist Pedro Lasch at a panel for Prospect.4 at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans. YCA collaborated with Lasch to create a project called “Weekly Monsters” in which apprentices created works that echoed Lasch’s work.

“I essentially ran Young Creative Agency after teaching school and the focus was kind of different from AFH because we started with graphic design and built up to fine arts later on.”

The inception and delivery of this program was something that Wright found difficult to balance. This is where she cites AFH’s encouragement and backing as crucial. “Claudia De Piante Vicin, my mentor at AFH, was an enormous source of support and advice. Susan Rodgerson [Co-Founder and Executive Artistic Director] was also super supportive and AFH actually became our fiscal sponsor.”

Making Space, an intergenerational dialogue of black women creators of digital and physical space, was co-organized by Alberta Wright and Gia Hamilton at the Ace Hotel.
Wright won first prize at PitchNOLA Community Solutions in 2016

“It speaks to the knowledge that I acquired that the [AFH] model is a really powerful one and it’s relevant in any urban center where there are creative young people. It’s the power of a safe space that allows creative young people to connect with art. That was the big takeaway,” she said.

The establishment of YCA, both in its model and community impact, is a direct byproduct of what Wright learned while at AFH. This community impact fostered through arts education and creative employment, first seen by Wright at AFH, is the lifting motivator that inspired her to start her organization in New Orleans.

The Painting Studio at the Artists For Humanity EpiCenter

“AFH benefits young people because it puts money in their pockets that they share with their families and community members; it gives teens the skills they need so it’s not just a paycheck; it benefits working artists because they can become mentors — meaning AFH benefits the whole arts ecosystem and creates more diversity in the arts and in colleges.”

It is clear that AFH provided Alberta with direction, immeasurable support and guidance (long after she completed the program), and a career enabling Alberta to combine her love for the arts with education and while perpetuating the AFH model of helping young people to find their place in the world.

CREATIVE JOBS FOR CREATIVE TEENS

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