I first heard this quote during a brief internship over at the CityKids Foundation, this was back in 1991 when actor, Malik Yoba used to work there and he would go auditioning at the TriBeCa Film Center, way before New York Undercover … As a matter of fact he was the first person I heard using this quote. I found out about CityKids while working at The Biograph theater, which was a revival house theater screening great classic films. While on my dinner break I walked around the neighborhood on 57th Street and passed by Carnegie Hall, I saw a line of limos and approached one of the many drivers and asked him who was he driving. Although he couldn’t tell me, he did mention that there would be an after party at a restaurant down the block called, Le Bar Bat. Long story short, after work I ran down the block, waited around and was able to sneak in with a group of kids that had just finished performing at Carnegie Hall. These kids were all part of the CityKids and they had just performed for their annual gala. Inside Le Bar Bat I met this guy who must have been about 2-3 years older than myself and we struck up a conversation. He told me about CityKids and I genuinely became interested in learning more about it. He said I should consider volunteering and this way learn first hand what they are all about. As a volunteer I really learned what this amazing safe place for teens was all about and my love for teaching the arts began to awaken. I never taught at CityKids but I took mental notes of how they went about nurturing teens via the arts. Ever since that revealing day I have worked as a teaching artist with Blackout Arts Collective, East Harlem Tutorial Program, PS 163, and Art Start.
I genuinely believe in being part of a solution and so I always look to take part of this responsibility as much as possible and not avoid it. Ever since the birth of my niece Sammy I made it a stronger focus towards the quote, … Each one, teach one … Throughout this journey there have been many times where I have lost focus and became overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of this rat race. But then Life happens and I receive yet another chance to re-focus. Just the other day my friend told me about a teaching artist gig with an organization of which I applied for, later in the week while researching some art books at my neighborhood library I was approached by a young man in his early 20’s, he introduced himself as an artist. He admitted that he is not formally trained and my response to that was, neither was I. He went on to tell me about his tattoo of which he designed in graffiti style and so on many other stories around graffiti. I gave him some artist names to look into such as Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel. I also suggested that he should venture into researching alternate art forms, which will in turn nurture his imagination and he would be able to create something else that has not been seen in graffiti. To say that it was a pleasure to have talked with this young man named, Jonathan, is an understatement. I walked out of that library so inspired and eager to listen to more stories from him and other kids who are eager to grow in their chosen art form.
My last gig as a teaching artist was given to me by another dear friend of mine, Johanna de los Santos, who has been the Executive Director of Art Start since 2007. The program that I created at Art Start was titled, Graffiti is …, the focus was to work with graffiti but to use it as a tool for personal development. So much thought went into creating this program and I am grateful to Jo for giving me the platform and freedom to create in a holistic way this program that truly helped teens as well as myself. There is healing through the arts that simply cannot be measured but it can be experienced.
I write this blog with the thought that it can serve to remind us that regardless of the training or lack of training any human being might have, the hunger to learn is ever so present, so if it shows up in your life, do not dismiss it but embrace and nurture it, for that child or adult is most definitely looking to learn and grow.
Each one, reach one – Each one, teach one – Each one lead one into the sun
Photos 1-5 taken by Edwin Supo
Photos 6-9 taken by Vané Russo