This summer, 12 to 14 young men, whose lives have been dramatically changed by a period of incarceration, were invited to make art in Westchester with the celebrated painter Ouattara Watts.
By Margot Clark-Junkins
This summer, 12 to 14 young men, whose lives have been dramatically changed by a period of incarceration, were invited to make art in Westchester with the celebrated painter Ouattara Watts. Watts led them through a series of four art workshops throughout June and July, held consecutively at Pelham Art Center, ArtsWestchester in White Plains, Rye Arts Center, and Katonah Museum of Art.
The purpose of these workshops, explained Christian Philemon, Executive Director of the Youth Shelter of Westchester in Mount Vernon, was to tap into their feelings of trauma and other deep-seated emotions. “When a young man enters a correctional facility,” said Philemon, “the facility is not well-equipped to deal with young people, developmentally-speaking. It is an adult system, not geared towards the needs of 16- to 18-year-olds.”
Their art will be featured for four days only, September 9-12, at the Rye Arts Center, alongside works contributed for sale by a number of artistic luminaries including their teacher Ouattara Watts, as well as Bradley Theodore and Faith Ringgold (courtesy of ACA Galleries, NY), and Hale Woodruff, Charles Alston, Bob Thompson, and Teri Richardson (all courtesy of Kenkeleba House, NY). Proceeds from all sales will benefit the shelter. All of the young men have been invited to attend the opening of “Inspired: Masters & Students” September 10 from 6-8.
Watts, a successful artist whose works are exhibited internationally, hails from the Ivory Coast. He lived and worked creatively in Paris for a period of time in the late 1980s, where he met the famed and now-deceased painter Jean Michel Basquiat. Watts is a successful artist who exhibits internationally. In describing Mr. Watts, Youth Shelter of Westchester President Robert Kreek told the Mount Vernon Inquirer, “His life and example say to our young people that their horizons are without limits.”
Curator Misha said, “We hoped to provide these young men with new and creative experiences that might enhance their view of the world upon re-entry into mainstream society. All responded positively and enthusiastically, and we witnessed tremendous growth in their art-making, even during the short time that we were with them.” She pointed out that, “The young men were inspired by Watts and his art and were able to receive his personal attention, engage in discussion, and learn about his career.”