Trevor Ward was one of the few Artists For Humanity (AFH) teens who didn’t discover the nonprofit through their high school career center. Despite being homeschooled, Ward had AFH on his radar for quite some time.
“When I was a kid, my mom made us participate in homeschool groups. I didn’t make any long-term friends out of that. Fun fact, I actually made enemies,” he joked.
Ward often cultivated relationships organically through extracurricular activities.
In freshman year, he began writing for Teens in Print (TiP), a journalism program that seeks to amplify the voices of students in Boston Public Schools. The AFH Photography Studio collaborated with TiP to create imagery for the written articles. Ward recalled noticing AFH teen photographers at various parties celebrating the release of new publications.
“I realized that most of my time at TiP wasn’t spent writing,” he admitted. “It was spent doodling.” Upon leaving TiP at age sixteen, Ward set out to improve his drawing skills.
“I remembered AFH,” he said. “I remembered that the teens get paid. I was interested because it was an actual job rather than an after-school program. I knew that was the place to go.”
Ward’s first day at AFH was one of young optimism and a memory that still shakes him with laughter. “We were all new kids,” he said, recounting the scene of fresh applicants gathered in the Painting Studio.
“I remember this vividly because my first mentor, Sneha Shrestha, asked the group if we were excited. I was the loudest and stuck out the most notably, so she immediately looked at me and said: ‘You, you’re in my group.’”
Ward’s intricate story at AFH began with his self-portrait in the Painting Studio. In the summer of 2012, he transferred to the 3D Design Studio, but only temporarily.
Trevor Ward's self portrait.
“It seemed like I was getting distracted, and I wasn’t being the most productive I could be,” Ward said. “They asked me if I wanted to go back to painting, so I did.”
However, a graphics mentor intercepted his return to the Painting Studio. AFH’s Graphic Design studio typically didn’t admit seniors like Ward, rather accepted teens with sufficient time to learn the software.
“[But then], he was flipping through my sketchbook and was like, ‘Dude, I want you in my studio,’” Ward said. It was an offer too good to refuse.
“I guess I wouldn’t have considered myself technologically savvy until I was about 17, and I started hanging out with my friend who got me into the deep end of computers.”
He worked in the Graphic Design Studio for a year until Greg Burdett, then Director of the Video & Motion Studio, caught wind of his interest in animation. “It was all I wanted to learn in the world,” Ward smiled.
“When you come into AFH, your mind switches from ‘I’m in school’ or ‘I’m busy’ to ‘I’m in this place where I have the skill set to create something.”
Ward’s elaborate journey demonstrates his enthusiastic and reflective nature. He relished the freedom to explore four different studios while thinking critically about their diverse creative impacts.
“At AFH, teens are given the opportunity to say, ‘Okay, I’m in this studio. Why am I in this studio?” More importantly, “How can I integrate that [reason] into my artwork?”
For Ward, his hobby of drawing geometric shapes evolved into a passion for vector graphics, making visual images from points, lines, and curves based on mathematical formulas.
Over time, Ward gained a distinct appreciation for AFH and its efforts to nurture successful teen artists. It even played an invaluable role in providing academic support.
“On one hand, I wanted to go to school. On the other hand, I don’t know if I would’ve had the personal drive if AFH wasn’t pushing me — checking in weekly about getting my GED,” Ward said.
“[Without AFH], I wouldn’t know nearly as much about art and design or what to do as a career. I don’t think I would’ve had such a specialized trajectory.”
After receiving his GED, Ward took a gap year to save money for college. He enrolled in Bunker Hill Community College to study computer science and communications.
Ward characterized his motivation to graduate as intrinsic rather than to earn a degree. He thought, “I want to know [computer science.] I don’t understand it, and I want to understand it.”
The influence of AFH is lifelong, manifesting in Ward’s personal and professional life. “I’ve become a lot more organized, digitally and physically,” he said. “In my workspace at home, I’m more careful about managing files on my computer.”
“These are just basic principles that I didn’t go out of my way to practice, but because they became a habit at AFH, they became a habit at home.”
Ward currently resides in Boston as the Animation Director in the Creative Technology Studio at AFH. He advances its culture of loyalty, as a majority of the mentors are AFH alumni. The sense of community is the glue that holds the organization together with each passing generation.
When asked to describe his most beloved piece of work, Ward replied, “I’ve had fun working on individual animation projects. I did one that was supposed to be a parody of 8-bit classic driving games. It was the cleanest package animation I’d ever done,” Ward beamed.
He continued, “I don’t draw and animate everything by myself. I’m training the teen animators in my studio, and [in that way], I’m equally proud of their work as I am of mine.”
Several of Ward’s favorite projects bridge the gap between teen and mentor and mirror the values, lessons, and opportunities he once received.
In 2021, Ward’s studio participated in World Collage Day in collaboration with the 3D Design Studio, an event hosted by Kolaj Magazine. The animated collages were projected on the AFH building using projection mapping and live streamed.
“They played around with disassembling collage contents and animating them together with different arrangements of space, compositions, and shapes,” Ward explained. “It [was] really neat and a new experience for everybody involved.”
Ward’s long history with AFH informs his approach as a mentor. “You can be as stern as you want, and it’s important to set boundaries and expectations in a workplace,” he emphasized.
Above all, teens require the space to grow as artists and individuals. Ward believes that young people can lack a sense of guidance, so it “takes a [combination of] discipline and patience to push them within those boundaries.”
“I’m not even sure what I want to do now,” Ward mused. “[But without AFH], I think I would’ve spent more time searching, and things might not have aligned so well or conveniently. All the knowledge [of my life] is based on what I’ve done [here].”
In his past, present, and future, Ward is bound to the AFH family. And for that, he’s grateful.