The Artists of Frenchmen Street is a non-profit organization founded during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, the organization raised $20,000+ to support local artists whose livelihoods selling at nightly art markets was disrupted. As the pandemic has receded, the non-profit will continue with the mission of using art as a positive force to address social problems plaguing the community.
The Epic of Desmond James: Leveraging the Power of Art, Philosophy and Mentorship to Support At-Risk Youth
The Artists of Frenchmen Street will pilot this year-long residency program with one youth aged 11-14 years. They will partner with a local non-profit working one-on-one with high-risk youth involved in the juvenile justice system to identify candidates and provide guidance on the residency program. The primary components of the residency are 1) Mentoring, Recreation and Education Activities, 2) Artistic Director Training 3) Work Experience as a Model. These activities will be conducted throughout weekly meetings between an artist mentor and the youth (4-6 hours/month).
The residency will culminate in a fundraiser, where art will be sold to raise up to $20,000 for the youth’s college fund. The residency program will give the youth a vision of their future, allowing them to identify as college-bound. Their artist mentor will help them see their promise and the rich possibilities of their future, rather than the struggles and culture of violence in New Orleans.
1) Mentoring, Recreation and Education Activities will be based on a liberal arts curriculum entitled "The Education of Eidos" which draws on socratic teaching methods. This curriculum was developed with the aim of empowering youth to find meaning and significance in their life through the aesthetic experiences of reading, writing, thinking, discussing, and creating. The primary socratic question posed by these activities is, "What is the best life to live?" The classes will include a variety of activities including: 1) Writing an autobiography to gain perspective on his past, present, and future 2) Reading the Great Books (ex: Epic of Gilgamesh) to elevate his language and conceptualization around his life 3) Engaging in recreational activities of his own selection and discussing his interests and passions 4) Meditating to gain self-knowledge and patience. By broadening horizons and contemplating life goals, the youth can answer for themselves the primary socratic question to fortify his character against the culture of gun violence omnipresent in the city.
2) Artistic Director Training: The youth will serve as the artistic director for six paintings during the course of the residency. Supported by their artist mentor, they will collaborate to create paintings representing the youth's quest for self-knowledge. The paintings will be the focal point of the discussions throughout weekly meetings. The youth will act as artistic director in all aspects of creating these works including discussing the narrative and symbols, inventing the action of the pose, designing costumes, and purchasing props.
3) Work Experience as a Model: The youth will be paid $15/hour to serve as a model for their artist mentor. They will create six king-sized paintings (10 ft. by 13 ft.) which will be displayed at a major New Orleans cultural institution and sold at a fundraising event. City leaders and media will be invited to see the nobility and splendor of the youth on colorful, vivid, action-filled canvases. Doug McCash, the art and culture reporter for the Advocate, has agreed to write a feature article on the project to galvanize public interest. The paintings will be cause for self-reflection for the youth against the backdrop of high aspirations and nobility.
An additional $11,000 are needed to support this program. We are requesting donations. There are sponsorship opportunities for
Charles Anderson is the president of The Artist of Frenchmen Street and lead artist on "The Epic of Desmond James." He is an award-winning portrait artist. In 2015, he won the South's largest art contest and sold his portrait of an inner-city youth to ArtFields Inc for $50,000. In 2019, he sold $250,000 worth of art through his wearable art business 1 of 1 Blazers. He has been a youth advocate and gun violence activist for close to 20 years in New Orleans.
Questions or Help
Call or email Charles