Spotlight on AFH Painting Mentors
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Being an artist is a lot of work, especially when you spend half of your time mentoring and half of your time creating! Mentors Massiel Grullon and Rob Gibbs (who is also a co-founder) have found ways to sustain their craft while taking active roles at AFH. Here’s how they do it — plus a showcase of some of their latest projects.
Project Name: Domino Furniture Project
Client: Hyde Square Task Force
Dates: October 2016 - March 2017
Duration: 5 months
Location: Jamaica Plain, MA
Is this project open to the public?
Yes, it is open to the public at the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) headquarters
Name of Project: “Breathe Life”
Client: The community of Roxbury, Dorchester, and Boston Arts Commission (Grove Hall Project)
Project Dates: October 2 – October 8
Project Duration: 7 days, 12 hours/day
Location: 324 Blue Hill Ave,
Is this project open to the public? Yes When? Right now.
1. What was your inspiration behind the Domino Furniture Project?
HSTF came up with the “Domino” theme and I immediately thought to represent the theme by building furniture. I was also inspired by my childhood, when I vividly remember visiting my mother’s old neighborhood in Santo Domingo.
In this neighborhood, there were children everywhere and all of the adults seemed to know each other. One of the many memories I have from the Dominican Republic is the men sitting in the shade on plastic chairs with plywood resting on their knees, playing dominoes while us kids ran around.
I used to love watching them gather, slamming dominoes onto the board with such a force it sometimes scared me! They would listen to merengue music, have great conversations, and celebrate their victories all while keeping a close eye on us kids.
Dominoes are a way of life in my culture. This simple game brings people of all ages and types together. That is why I wanted to build something that brings the community together in a physical space.
2. What materials did you use to complete the project?
I used birch plywood and house paint. I wanted to use basic materials while also thinking about the piece being outdoors and being functional.
3. Tell us about your role in the project.
I was the head of the project. I came up with the ideas and dimensions. I had an assistant Nate Swain, who helped me with building the furniture and AFH was kind enough to let me use its woodshop before and after work hours.
4. What were the project’s challenges and how did you respond to those challenges?
The biggest challenge was sanding the chairs. So much sanding! But it keeps your arms strong. Also measurements of the chairs — we had to make sure all of the chairs met our exact measurements.
5. Can you offer a piece of advice to AFH teens as to how they can work on projects like this on their own time?
It is exciting to challenge yourself during the process. Don't make things easy. If you get too comfortable, then it's boring. Find friends, co workers, and people you trust to collaborate with. It will help keep production cost down and you can barter by helping them with projects in the future.
6. What would be your dream project to create in Boston (or elsewhere) and why?
My dream project in Boston is to build a massive psychedelic inflatable art installation for live concerts or a super graphic giant mural.
7. How would you respond to people who don’t believe artists can make a career and a living by doing what they love?
I would tell them look at me — it is possible to live and sustain a creative lifestyle!
1. How would you describe the project? “Breathe Life” is a 3-story tall by 57-foot-wide wide mural on brick.
2. What materials did you use to complete the project? Spray Paint
3. What was your role in the project?
I was the Project Lead/Manager, Artistic Director, and artist behind the project.
4. What was your inspiration behind “Breathe Life”?
The inspiration behind this piece was the need to place a positive message in our community with some level of visual impact. I wanted to pay respect and homage to an area that holds the history of what made me the artist I am today.
5. What were the project’s challenges and how did you respond to those challenges?
The challenge was locking down a wall that would compliment the message and have the property owners buy in on the project.
Another challenge is convincing some property owners that as a black man you have the skill set, experience, and imagination to create what we propose. Large-scale murals that celebrate who we are as people in our city are hard to come by. I humbly would love to meet this challenge by placing more positive murals in our communities with very little back and forth. This challenge could and will be met through our actions.
6. Can you offer a piece of advice to AFH teens as to how they can work on projects like this on their own time?
A piece of advice from me would be to get the skill set to be able to communicate and execute your ideas. Believe in yourself and volunteer to apprentice on big projects to get the hands-on experience. Pay your dues and your work will be the receipt.
7. What would be your dream project to create in Boston (or elsewhere) and why?
One dream project would be to paint this GIANT wall in Dudley Square on the side of the Hamill Gallery. I would handle that project like a residency. The wall’s visibility is VITAL. What we would put up on this wall would acknowledge the community’s dynamic young people.
Little black and brown children should see something that reflects who they are through positive images that look like them. This composition would help all members of this community feel like they are a part of the bigger picture by representing them in an artistic creation that could become one of the many landmarks in the area. That would make an impact.
8. How would you respond to people who don’t believe artists can make a career and living by doing what they love?
I would say to do what we’ve been doing — showing people is better than what we could ever tell them.
Follow Rob Gibbs on Instagram to view more of his work: @Problak