Every Art Piece Sold at First-Ever Youth Art Show
SEP 9, 2023 | Covenant House
On any given day, Pride Hall in our Covenant House New York site is a sanctuary, a place young people can be together in community after a long day of school or work.
On Wednesday evening, Pride Hall was transformed into the most inspiring, beautiful art show in New York City.
The first-ever Covenant House New York youth art show featured Covenant House youth standing proudly by their incredible paintings, sculptures, photography, and poetry. Every piece available for sale was purchased within hours by the approximately 100 art lovers in attendance, including Covenant House board members, staff, volunteers, supporters, and a special visit by New York Knicks star Jalen Brunson and his family.
“We are so proud and excited that our young people are getting to express their creativity in this special way” said Dr. Shakeema North, CEO of Covenant House New York. “And to be compensated for their work and use the money to continue their individual journeys is such a powerful, tangible result from this evening. We are so grateful to all our program partners, people who give of their time to come here on nights and weekends to provide workshops on art, photography and poetry. The result is this beautiful representation of our young people’s talent and creativity.”
“Special thanks to the Arts Ignite Organization and Anna Ubell-Garcia, a photographer, for partnering and leading the majority of the creative workshops that our residents have had the pleasure of experiencing, and also providing an environment that the youth can thrive in and express themselves freely,” said Kadaisha Cameron, youth development program coordinator. Kadaisha is one of the driving forces, along with Covenant House New York staff members Reagan Robinson and Cyndi Snyder, who worked so hard to turn the dream of a youth art show into a reality. “We are so grateful to be able to give this platform to our youth so that they can not only show their amazing talent but also create new opportunities for themselves.”
Like all artists, our young people drew inspiration for their work from a number of places.
Standing next to his painting of a beautiful night sky in the Ecuadorian countryside, Billy said that he paints to distract himself.
“I came here alone from Ecuador, and when I miss my family and home, I paint. I used to paint as a child, and doing it again now makes me glad that I haven’t lost the touch that God gave me for art.”
Rya calls one of her works “Chaotic Organized Mess,” using beautiful pink and blue bubbles and other shapes on a black background, with flecks of splashed white paint. “The paint is all over the place, but all the colors go well together. I’m always rushing, but when I stop and think, it all comes together. And there’s beauty.”
“I liked to paint when I was younger,” shared Rya. “Here at Covenant House, we have all the art supplies; we have art therapy. I’m always there. This is my first art show. It’s cool. And, looking at all these people — they get it.”
Trackamason, or Track for short, describes himself as a messenger. “I leave my fingerprint,” he explains. “I have the freedom of perspective. Art is about sharing perspective, being able to show the world as I see it and capture it. I can touch you with my mind or my flesh, but this is a spiritual connection, a spiritual perspective. We are all drawn to art. We need this.”
“I am noticing a lot of people admiring the details of the work, which makes me happy because the details are what makes great art and poetry,” Track said. “Tonight I get to watch people react to my work, what appeals to their eye, and that is going to help me with my future artwork. I want to do work that captures the heart. This is a great night.”
Carlos is an artist who creates what he sees and what he likes. “I have loved art my whole life, so it feels very good to be able to share it in this special way tonight,” he said. One of his favorites is his painting of a beautiful tree. “It is not my best work, but it was the first piece I did when I came to Covenant House, and that makes it special to me.”
One of Mistou’s paintings is a part of her family home in Benin. She calls it “Nostalgia.”
“This was my most relaxing place,” she said. “Whenever my mom is looking for me, she knows I will be there. It was very calming for me. But, also, it is the place where we would celebrate Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays. I painted this because I was feeling homesick. This was the most joyful time of my life, when I had no worries. You can see there are lilies, lavender, and plants to make tea. Whenever we wanted tea, we could just go and retrieve the leaves or flowers. The painting contrasts nature, outside, with this part of the building. I wanted to show every space that I love.”
Standing next to one of her photos, which she calls “Cascade,” Jessenia shares that her painting and photography are spontaneous. “Whenever I have an idea, I can come to the art studio at Covenant House and paint. With this photo, I wanted to create a sense of serenity.”
Guests who have a passion for visiting art galleries around the city, and around the world, commented that many of the pieces could be held up against artwork featured in prominent galleries. The overwhelming feeling from those in attendance was awe of the young people’s talent, and gratitude for being able to meet the artists, buy their work, and to spend this special time with young people at Covenant House.
“I think too often we focus only on the practical side of how to help heal, but the creative side is just as important for healing,” said Rebecca Street, who donates time sharing her talent in poetry workshops at nonprofits. “Creativity is healing. This is an inspiring evening. What I love most about Covenant House is how open-hearted this program is, non-judgmental, supportive, and safe.”
Charles Grund, vice president of operations at Relish Catering & Hospitality, was working hard alongside his staff during the show as they prepared the delicious food they donated and served to make the evening even more special. “We have been working with Covenant House providing food donations monthly, but when Cyndi called with this idea, she was so excited, and the young people/artists were so excited, and that got us excited. We wanted to be part of it!”
So many community partners helped make the event a success. Julissa Rodriguez from Art By Jar Art has been volunteering to teach art at our Bridge House Bronx Shelter since January 2023. Each Tuesday, she consistently comes in to support and create art pieces of many different mediums, from painting to mask making and more. Much of the art activities explored are led by the ideas and inspiration of our creative Bridge House youth. Special thanks to Raymond Miranti for all of his support of Bridge House young artists and ensuring they have the supplies they need to express themselves.
Thank you also to our generous partners at Shutterfly for printing our invitations and all the photography at the art show created by our talented youth at Covenant House!
Jalen Brunson took in all the art and the atmosphere with a big smile on his face.
“What a great experience. I love how interactive it is, getting to meet and speak with the artists while they talk about their work. I love this Covenant House community and I am so glad to be a part of it.”
Speaking of community, Jalen’s sister, Erica, joined him and toured around Covenant House prior to attending the art show. After seeing the space and meeting some of the artists, she shared, “You walk into Covenant House and you feel so comfortable, and immediately feel welcomed and part of this special community. How exciting it will be to see what the future holds for these great young artists.”