December 2022

in the news

Imagination Over Reality

Not your average teen job!

AFH Not Your Average Teen Job - AFH teens with David Byrne

For the past several years, we have been closely watching Breakthrough Properties’ impressive new life science building come to life next to our EpiCenter in South Boston. 

The development, which will serve as CRISPR Therapeutics’ new U.S. Research and Development headquarters, includes a public passageway with a 120’ meandering wall. We were hopeful that AFH would be commissioned, that our art and design would find its way on to the wall of our new neighbor and a great partnership would ensue.

Tishman Speyer, which owns Breakthrough Properties in a joint venture with Bellco Capital, was also envisioning the same. 

Jessica Hughes, Tishman Speyer on collaboration with Artists For Humanity and David Byrne

This past summer AFH met with Hughes and Tishman Speyer’s Managing Director of Design & Construction, Rustom Cowasjee, to discuss collaborating with an artist to create a mural on the 120' meandering wall that flanked the public passageway from W 1st St. to W. 2nd St. They wanted to see if we had the interest and capacity to support the artist in executing a mural on this enormous wall. Of course we said yes—how exciting and intriguing! We later found out the artist they commissioned was the David Byrne—visual artist, singer, songwriter, and co-founder of the group “Talking Heads”—represented by Pace Gallery in New York.

Byrne imagined that Cowasjee would want his signature black and white line drawings, but when he saw the expanse of the wall during his initial visit, he knew he needed a different vision. Cowasjee suggested a tour of Artists For Humanity. Byrne saw what our young people were doing across the breadth of our creative studios and said, “There’s my answer right there.” Byrne fell in love, asked us to collaborate and the rest is history!

David Byrne on collaboration with Artists For Humanity

We have a lot of Talking Heads’ fans at AFH so there was much excitement. We assembled the AFH team—six teen artists and four mentors—to design and paint the "bucolic landscape" based on a sketch Byrne provided. There were presentations and feedback, and then over the course of two weeks, the AFH Team completed the landscape and Byrne began to overlay his signature drawings. The result—“Imagination Over Reality,” a mural that invites the public to imagine the impossible.

AFH David Byrne mural at CRISPR

Artists For Humanity and David Byrne Mural @ CRISPR

It was a good challenge to paint a wall of this size, in a place of this prominence, and to do that alongside a famous person! It’s commissions like this that make the AFH experience extraordinary for young people who never imagined their voice and contribution mattered—that it had power and could make history. 

AFH Teen Artist Luca on working with David Byrne on mural

AFH + David Byrne mural @ CRISPR

Hughes imagines all the people who will be inspired by this mural—CRISPR scientists as they walk to the top floors, someone walking their bike through the public passageway to get to the park or play basketball, or someone coming to the Vester Cafe who each day may notice a different face or object in the landscape’s clouds. “And that is an amazing thing that we were able to do here.”

AFH + David Byrne + Tishman Speyer, CRISPR mural

Our new Executive Director, Anna Yu, was so inspired by this remarkable partnership and commented, "This project truly represents the 'proof of concept' of AFH's 32-year mission, bringing together an inspirational artist of great renown, a group of innovative real estate developers who build community and connection, all working alongside AFH teens and mentors. There is a special magic and spirit that exists in this collaboration, which I am so honored to witness. I hope this is just the start of many more extraordinary partnerships centered on community and art."

Come walk the interior passageway at 105 W 1st St. and experience the impossible of an unlikely partnership—between a developer, a nonprofit and a rock icon—creating a whole lot of good! 

"Not your average teen job!"

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