year in
review: 2017 highlights

December 2017

afh 2017 highlights

As we reflect on 2017, we are overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude for the support of our clients, donors, board members, and friends, and simultaneously reinvigorated by the energy of our prolific teens.​


january 2017

This year, AFH’s 3D Design Studio completed new orders of TetrapodTM Furniture for individual clients.The Collection was showcased at our Greatest Party On Earth, the Boston Home Decor Show, The Society of Arts and Crafts, and featured in Design New England.​

For this edition, participants Suliemon and Edwin worked with assistant mentors Fred and Handy and mentor Dominique to create a seamless collection of colorful stools and benches.


Handy says, “While working to finalize the TetrapodTM furniture set, I learned the importance of patience while working with wood. These pieces are strong both visually and physically but at the same time it was at times important to be delicate while constructing them.”​


Our new Tetrapod™ accent furniture collection is created by layering leftover birch plywood waste into a series of small furniture pieces.​ ​This collection adds a bright, clean pop of color​ ​to any space.



In April, we were thrilled to launch a limited-edition sneaker release of Reebok Classics in the company’s flagship store in Manhattan, complete with a build out of a “studio in a store” which activated Reebok’s Union Square retail store with creativity and live art-making.​

Graphic Design Studio participants responded to the “Hijacked Heritage” design brief by unearthing Reebok’s roots as a British company, and infusing ‘classic’ models with a contemporary sensibility. The limited edition Reebok sneaker collection designed by AFH teens was sold internationally, both in stores and online.


During the launch event, Painting Studio participants painted live in the store windows while a DJ spinned, and AFH Graphic Design Studio participants customized sneakers for customers on site.

Of the collaboration, the Reebok team said, “The Reebok Classics collaboration with Artists For Humanity allows us to deliver a unique product experience to consumers around the world by tapping into the mindset and culture of today’s youth. It also presents an opportunity for our brand to help mentor young adults in the local community while allowing them to provide their perspective of the brand’s history through the product they build.”


“I started working at AFH during my sophomore year of high school in 2004. Thirteen years later, I am back at AFH as a graphic designer and mentor,” said Graphic Design Studio mentor Jonathan Vergara. He continued, “The Reebok collaboration has been a tremendous opportunity. Not only can we give back by providing our teens with the skills and opportunities to work with major companies like Reebok, but also we’re now designing the sneakers we grew up wearing.”​



MAY 2017

EY, a multinational corporation, commissioned the AFH Graphic Design Studio to create an interior wall graphic to celebrate their core-values, brand, and dynamic corporate culture. The result was a vibrant piece portraying EY’s global presence and their commitment to “Building a Better Working World.”​

Graphic Design participant Maxwell Brown’s illustration was chosen as the backdrop for the wall graphic. Of the illustration, Max says, “For this piece, I wanted to demonstrate a sense of global connection — that is why the skyline includes different landmarks from various cities where EY is headquartered, connected by a bridge in the center.” ​


“The drawing itself is taken from one of my original sketches. It was originally done with pen and paper, then taken into illustrator and vectored. One of the challenges to the project was also one of the best parts: the fact that the mural was going to be so large meant that I was able to go into finer detail and make a more intricate piece. It was a fun challenge to create an entire city skyline.”​


JUNE 2017

In June, Artists For Humanity revealed the result of a year-long collaboration with John Hancock during the MLK Summer Scholars Annual Kick-Off Event in Boston. Mayor Marty Walsh joined us in celebrating the completed 56 foot long mural, representing the values and history of John Hancock, produced by our Graphic Design Studio.​​

For this project, Artists For Humanity designed and installed an environmental graphic for John Hancock's signature 'connector' wall. The wall links John Hancock's Corporate Museum and its Lab of Forward Thinking (LOFT) office, making it an important connector between the history of John Hancock and the future endeavors of the LOFT initiative. Inspired by the company’s rich history and vibrant future, the design includes a mixture of archival photography, illustrations, color treatments and typography to create a message that is both authentic and accessible.

Graphic Design participant Kelly De Leon reflects on her designs saying, “My mural idea for John Hancock was to show the progression of the company from its origins to how it is today. On the right side of the mural you see how John Hancock started with his signature on the constitution. The design then transitions into the more modern image the company has today. Overall, I was interested in portraying the growth of John Hancock as a company.”​​


JULY 2017

In July, Artists For Humanity welcomed friends, supporters, neighbors, and community members to celebrate the Groundbreaking of our EpiCenter Expansion, which will expand our space by 30,000 square feet and create more opportunities for young people from Boston's under-resourced communities.​

This expansion will allow us to:

  • Double the number of young people we can employ each and every year;
  • Launch the Liberty Mutual Career Center to train youth in the skills necessary to succeed in the building trades, and connect and support them in union apprenticeships; and,

  • Open all of our art-making spaces to the public within the AFH Makers Studio. Members can take classes and access studios and equipment to experience the magic of creativity and making.



We are honored by the support and leadership we have received from you and so many friends to expand creative employment for our teens and mentors and finally build our new studios, gallery, and store!


Thank you for being with us on this remarkable journey. Click here to take the virtual tour of our Expanded EpiCenter!


JULY 2017

This summer, Photography Studio Manager Mary Nguyen led “Picture Quincy Market,” a three-part social media photography workshop series facilitated by our teen entrepreneurs. The AFH-led workshop combined fun and informal "class" time with guided photo walks at Faneuil Hall.​

Sessions focused on ways to capture social media friendly photos of people, architecture, and food, while reflecting the unique vision of each photographer. When the workshop series wrapped, attendees had garnered new composition and editing techniques, and been introduced to the most effective digital applications for maximizing the impact of their social media posts.



In August, our Painting Studio transformed two large-scale recycled advertisement banners—measuring 122” x 6” and 115” x 6”—into works of art for Gillette’s South Boston headquarters. Inspired by fall foliage and the color palette of nearby Channel Center Park, participants painted the banners yellow, orange, blue, purple, and green in geometric shapes.​

Reflecting on the project, Painting Studio participant Mamadou “Belle” Balde explained, “Having my work displayed publicly in Boston is a dream come true for me! Some things that I learned during this project are that being patient and working as a group is really important in life.” ​


Most impressive? The teens did not use tape to create the straight lines on the piece. Instead, they painted each shape by hand using highly technical paint brushes and employing a lot of patience during the warm summer months.​

Painting participant My Vu says, “It feels great having my work displayed publicly in Boston at a company like Gillette. Knowing that I put my best efforts into this project makes me feel good about it. From this experience, I learned that hard work and dedication pays off.”​


AFH painting mentor Gary Chen, who supervised the project along with artist Nate Swain, said, “I am proud that this piece is displayed on Gillette’s property because it will get attention from a lot of different people, and it helps beautify the space along A Street.”​



In September, the 3D Design Studio created a ten-foot tabletop for Residence Inn by Marriott in Burlington, Massachusetts. AFH also created lobby art including fine art paintings, photographs, and hand-painted mirror frames in addition to the tabletop, which allowed multiple studios to engage with the project.​

As part of the lobby art, AFH designed and fabricated a ‘Sky’ ReVision collage comprised of 112 6”x6” ReVision tiles. The reclaimed magazine collage incorporates images of blue skies and was given a glossy finish through the application of a low VOC epoxy resin.​


Gianni, who has worked in the 3D Design Studio for over a year, says, “Through this project, I learned we can find a solution to a problem if we think creatively and work collaboratively!!”​



In October, we were honored to participate in HUBweek, where we celebrated the voices of Boston’s creative teens in our immersive, interactive 20’ x 10’ shipping container. Executed by AFH participants and mentors, our container’s exterior was painted with a “fingerprint” design overlaid on a color spectrum.​

Our fingerprint design in the foreground speaks to the tremendous impact a single person can have on an entire community while the background color spectrum represents the powerful force of organized, collective effort. We were inspired by the idea that a fingerprint is both universal and individual, as every person has one and yet each fingerprint is unique.​

Titled “Set It Straight, Miles To Go,” we hoped to communicate that while AFH addresses equity on a daily basis, we all still have work to do. Inside the container, teens voices refracted off the walls through a series of video projections and sound recordings representing a world of experiences and reflections often omitted from public discourse.​




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reveal of assembly
row sculpture project

november 2017

In November, the “Mobi” sculpture was unveiled in DCR’s

Sylvester Baxter Riverfront Park. Artists For Humanity worked with Federal Realty Investment Trust, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the City of Somerville, the Summer Youth Jobs Program, and the Somerville Arts Council to conceptualize and create a large-scale sculpture for Sylvester Baxter Riverfront Park at Assembly Row.​

Students from Somerville High School researched and participated in the design of “Mobi,” creating a sculpture that celebrates the history of Somerville, Mystic River, and the Assembly Square area. Our founding Executive and Artistic Director Susan Rodgerson explains, “The design is inspired by the continuum of the site’s land use from Native fish weirs and colonist farms to a long history of industrial use and contamination. Now, returned to nature, Mobi's elements of wildfowl and industrial cogs represent the eternal balance of man and nature.”


“It has been a pleasure to be a part of this public/private initiative to bring public art to the community. As the saying goes, many hands make light work,” said Gregory Jenkins, Arts Council Director.


Federal Realty Investment Trust, the owner and developer of Assembly Row, said they were proud to have worked with Artists For Humanity and Somerville High students in creating a sculpture that will be a signature element of the neighborhood for years to come. The sculpture celebrates the history of Somerville, the Mystic River, and the Assembly Square neighborhood.

“We are excited to have this meaningful sculpture as a permanent part of our neighborhood,” said Matt Ehrie, VP and General Manager of Assembly Row. “We couldn’t have asked for better partners to see this project through. The City of Somerville, DCR, Arts Council and Artists For Humanity helped us empower local students to use their creativity in creating a piece of art that reflects the spirit of Assembly Square.”


Photos by AFH participant Yvonne Chen.




Artists For Humanity | 100 W 2nd St Boston MA, 02127 T.617.268.7620    F.617.268.7358



This program is supported in part by a grant from the Boston Cultural Council, a local agency which is funded by the Mass Cultural Council, and administered by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.​

Funded in part by Boston Public Schools (BPS) Arts Expansion, a multi-year effort focusing on access, equity and quality arts learning for BPS students. The BPS Arts Expansion Fund, managed by EdVestors, is supported by the Barr Foundation, The Boston Foundation, Katie and Paul Buttenwieser, The Klarman Family Foundation, Linde Family Foundation, and other foundations and individuals.. BPS Arts Expansion is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.​

Artists For Humanity is supported by the New England Foundation for the Arts through the New England Arts Resilience Fund, part of the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund, an initiative of the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with major funding from the federal CARES Act from the National Endowment for the Arts.​