November 2023

teen voices

No Prior Painting Experience Necessary

written by Elizangi Araujo

“The experience of getting to work with other artists and see everybody’s work” is part of the reason why Irma Guerra decided to join Artists For Humanity—her first real job.

AFH Teen Artist Irma Guerra

Irma Guerra as an AFH Teen Artist.

Now 18 years old, Irma was a part of Artists For Humanity's (AFH) Painting Studio team for a little over two years, after hearing about the job through a friend. Word of mouth is strong at AFH, with many teens wanting the opportunity to work alongside their friends. 

While at AFH this past summer, Irma talked about her initial tour of the studios, and her immediate realization that she wanted to work here. She learned how great the program was and loved having the opportunity to learn more about art. Knowing that no prior painting experience was necessary made the choice easy.

Though Irma sketches, she had never painted. She was excited to explore something unfamiliar, and found her niche in abstract art. It is hard for her to explain exactly why she likes abstract art so much, beyond how the use of different colors and shapes excites her. 

AFH teen artist turned alumna, Irma Guerra

"Feliz" by AFH Teen Artist Irma Guerra.

In the beginning, it didn’t come easy. Her abstract style presented some challenges as she worked on her first major project last summer. While working on a larger canvas, she encountered a specific hurdle—creating straight lines without them bleeding into one another. Despite her best efforts, perfection remained elusive, and occasionally, the lines would still bleed. She had to constantly restart.

Each time, her frustrations made her feel like she was being tested. Over time, Irma learned an important tool. “One thing [I learned] about painting is that you have to have patience,” Irma says. She now enjoys the challenge and has grown her appreciation for the creative process. 

Important to Irma’s process and producing her best art is having a comfortable work space, and she found that at AFH. Its relaxing and low stress environment allowed Irma to work at her own pace. She appreciates being surrounded by art, the music that plays in the studio and her friends. Being in the Painting Studio motivated her and pushed her to get her work done.

AFH teen artist turned Alumna Irma Guerra

"Dynamic" by AFH Teen Artist Irma Guerra.

Irma’s time at AFH transformed her. She now knows how to do something she had never done before and finds it so inspiring she has turned it into a personal hobby. Because of AFH, Irma created a painting area in her room at home, encouraging her to do more painting outside of the Painting Studio.

With AFH being a community-oriented organization, it makes sense that Irma mentioned that she has created life-long friends in both her fellow teen artists and mentors. When asked what her favorite part of Artists For Humanity has been, she shared, “I just like working with other people, and collaborating with other teens is a big part of AFH’s studio life…everyone has a different art style or a different perspective to share.”

AFH teen artist turned alumna Irma Guerra

"Currents" by AFH Teen Artist Irma Guerra.

Beyond AFH, Irma has big plans! This fall, Irma started studying at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is studying psychology, with plans to be an art therapist. She wants to keep painting in her life, and help others to express their emotions and thoughts through art.

Interested in working at AFH as a teen artist or designer?

Learn more and apply here.

Thank you to our supporters, including:

The Lynch Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Sustaining Grants - Cummings Foundation - Cummings Foundation
State Street
John Hancock - MLK Scholars
Stavros Niarchos Foundation
Mass Cultural Council
The Wilson Sheehan Foundation
Wellington Management
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Ann Theodore Foundation
edvestors - Driving Change in Urban Schools