AFH Alumni Stories: Edition 02—Alberta Wright

Image for post
Image for post

With both of her parents being artists, Alberta Wright was exposed to the creative process at an early age. However, with the nature of their work, Alberta’s family moved quite frequently. It wasn’t until she arrived in Boston during the fourth grade that she and her family finally put down roots. This exposure to creative employment and constant uprooting at a young age evoked a wariness in Wright’s involvement with art.

“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.”

Image for post
Image for post
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.

Wright’s first impression of AFH was that it was an energetic, fun space to be in. Despite the initial nervousness about her performance and feeling pressure to be independently creative, she quickly recognized AFH as a space of acceptance.

Image for post
Image for post
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.

“I wanted to fit in with everyone. School can tend to feel segregated but here it was very much like we’re all artsy nerds and if you paint well, I’m going to come over and look at your stuff. And even if you don’t paint well, I want to help you. It was just this place where I felt like differences melted away and it was just fun.”

During her time at AFH, Wright worked within the Painting Studio as well as with silk screening. She was also extremely curious about the spray paint medium, an art form her Painting Studio mentors Jason (SWAT) and Rob (PROBLAK) had mastered. A favorite project and a moment of pride for Alberta was a special spray paint lesson with Jason and a fellow Painting Studio teen artist, Sahra Nguyen.

Image for post
Image for post
Alberta Wright spray paints with former participant Sahra Nguyen and co-founder Jason Talbot at the Artists For Humanity EpiCenter in South Boston.

“SWAT had me go through a few hoops to get to the lesson — I had to get specific tones of paint, pick an animal to paint that had lots of different areas of shading, really prepare,” she recalls. “I ended up creating something that day that I really loved, a purple elephant with sad eyes.”

“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.”

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

“I got to see more of how AFH functions as a part of the City of Boston ecosystem and how it’s relevant in business. I also got to go to events that spoke to my interests and recognized me as an autonomous young adult becoming an independent person.”

Wright attended Barnard College and graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Art History and Human Rights. After graduation, she was involved with Teach For America, which took her to New Orleans, where she taught English. Her early years in New Orleans were marked with the heavy realization of failing charter schools as well as a lack of arts programs.

“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.”

Image for post
Image for post
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.

In collaboration with an incubator program called 4.0 Schools, Wright designed and received funding for several small pilot programs to address the need for arts in the classroom. She was able to implement these programs in different charter schools throughout New Orleans and the results led her to stop teaching and begin fully pursuing the creation of an arts program that would eventually become Young Creative Agency (YCA).

“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.”

Image for post
Image for post
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 was later nominated for Teach For America’s Social Innovation Award, which led to incredible exposure for YCA. Towards the end of 2015, YCA began partnering with the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), the largest opportunity youth-serving organization in the greater New Orleans region, which eventually led to an offer from YEP to fund YCA’s model in August of 2016. So far, the organization has seen wonderful success, with clients including The Ace Hotel, Teach For America, the NBA, and several artist collectives, not to mention the large teen population YCA has been able to reach. However, this is only the beginning.

“So things are looking really good and we’re excited to grow. We’re obviously so indebted and thankful to AFH for inspiring this and also the funds that they gave us to get started.”

Image for post
Image for post
Wright won first prize at PitchNOLA Community Solutions in 2016

It is clear that Wright’s time at AFH had a tremendous impact on her as well as her future career path. Wright specifies that AFH provided her with the education needed to navigate a career in the arts. She saw it as a space that combined a love for art education with a desire to be involved in business and client work.

“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.

Image for post
Image for post
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.”

Wright currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is starting the groundwork for a Young Creative Agency LA. YEP Design Works is thriving with Wright’s replacement while Wright’s work with YCA also continues with a City of New Orleans-and-Arts Council partnered project called the Creative Digital Equity Initiative. The initiative expands Wright’s work at YEP Design Works to include studios in public art, music, and fashion, and opens its doors to youth enrolled at traditional public high schools, as well as those in the Opportunity Youth category.

You can learn more at yepdesignworks.org.

Image for post
Image for post

Interviewed and written by Grace Yuh and Jane Elmets.

Written by

CREATIVE JOBS FOR CREATIVE TEENS

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store