Artists For Humanity

year 2, week 5:  this week i'm gonna...bridge division with art


Rob Gibbs

Rob Gibbs

"It was either play sports or hustle," Rob Gibbs, co-founder of Artists for Humanity, says of the neighborhoods he grew up in. "(Our) neighborhoods birthed an onslaught of talent but offered very few options in facilities that would host or hone your talents and help them grow."

Rob and his friend, Jason Talbot, grew up in the Lenox Street and Orchard Park projects in Boston. When they were in 8th grade, they met Susan Rodgerson, a Boston artist, teacher, and entrepreneur. Susan came to their Martin Luther King Jr. middle school to work on a project -- she and the entire student body collaborated to produce a large painting.

Jason Talbot and Susan Rodgerson

Jason Talbot and Susan Rodgerson

Rob remembers, "That project’s concept was my introduction to the power of spontaneity and the power it possesses to unite and pull all creative aspects together to speak more than one idea/voice in a piece."

In 1991, Rob and Jason were hungry for more art exposure and experience, so Susan invited them to come paint and learn how to market artwork under her mentorship. Little did they know that this was the beginning of Artists for Humanity (AFH), an organization that uses art to forge a connection between teens and the corporate sector, a group from which most inner-city teens are almost completely detached. At AFH, young people are paid to create art and design, including paintings, photography, sculptures, screen prints, digital media/video, graphic/web design projects, and industrial/3D designs. 

AFH students at work in the EpiCenter

AFH students at work in the EpiCenter

Both Jason and Rob were eager to work with Susan not only for the art, but also to escape the gangs that controlled their neighborhood streets. "In those days," Jason said, "I believed it was just a matter of time before I was killed."

"Susan created a space for us to learn and grow," said Rob. "We gave the dedication and commitment." 

What began as a single artistic collaboration between Rob, Jason, and Susan in her tiny studio has since grown into a creative haven for teens from every corner of the city.

Featured work in the AFH painting studio  (photo credit: Juan Maclean)

Featured work in the AFH painting studio (photo credit: Juan Maclean)


Artists For Humanity’s (AFH's) mission is to bridge economic, racial, and social divisions by providing under-resourced urban youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design. Their mission is built on twin philosophies: (1) engagement in the creative process is a powerful force for social change, and (2) creative entrepreneurship is a productive and life-changing opportunity for young people and their communities.

AFH’s core program employs 250+ urban teens annually during critical out of school hours. The teens work with professional artists and designers on innovative projects that promote active learning and advanced skills development in creative products, industrial design, digital media, and STEM concepts. They interact directly with clients on corporate commissions, and gain business, communication, client negotiation, and workforce readiness skills. In 26 years, AFH has employed over 3,000 young people in paid apprenticeships in the visual arts and creative industries and has engaged an additional 12,000 youth in arts exploration experiences through Visual Arts Residencies and other partnerships at Boston public schools. 100% of AFH teens earn their high school diplomas, 95% of them on time. 

To learn more about Artists For Humanity, please watch the video below.

Jason is now the Special Projects Director and Rob directs the 3,000 square foot Painting Studio that tops the EpiCenter (AFH's main building). Both of them mentor AFH students. 

When asked what his favorite part of being a AFH mentor is, Rob stated, "Knowing that you get to help another person out by sharing your time and knowledge through practice is one part. Being present in the studio is another part. Growing with a young person until they become a young adult is another. Experiencing the generations that come and go through the program ...The best parts need their own interview."

Wilton Tejeda  (

Wilton Tejeda (

AFH mentors have had tremendous impact on many students, including Wilton Tejeda. Wilton had never painted before being hired as a teen artist at AFH in 2010. He credits his fast learning and motivation to the encouragement of his mentor, who helped him with commissioned paintings. Wilton's AFH mentor also helped him perfect the portfolio of pieces that got him accepted into MassArt. You can check out Wilton's impressive work on his website.

Notes for this week:

  • Inspire Your Heart With Art Day is January 31st
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor one week's wages for seven teens to work in AFH's intensive and empowering after-school program.
  • For more information regarding Artists For Humanity, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to Artists For Humanity.

please share the givetwig awesomeness!