September 2023

in the news

Co-founder, mentor, and renowned artist—Rob "ProBlak" Gibbs—takes a broader view

Grow On, Flow On—A Tribute To Rob "ProBlak" Gibbs

"Grow On, Flow On"—known as Rob "ProBlak" Gibbs signature catchphrase, which at AFH, ends all of his emails—is a perfect start to this special tribute to our dear friend and colleague.

After 32 years and numerous awards, renowned artist and AFH Co-founder, Rob "ProBlak" Gibbs—named one of Boston's most influential people, will be transitioning from his evolving role at AFH to continue his artistic journey locally, nationally, and internationally.

Rob has a long legacy of developing, elevating, and amplifying Boston’s public art landscape. For Rob,

“Investing time, creativity, and love into building a beautiful community of young people and emerging arts has always driven so much of my work both at AFH and beyond. That commitment remains as I am transitioning to continue my artistic journey and share my practice with a broader local, national, and international audience.“

For many years, AFH has been both a homebase and a springboard for Rob to develop and hone in on his craft, to elevate the brand of AFH, and to build community.  His fellow AFH Co-founder and Managing Director of Programs at AFH, Jason Talbot, reflects on the immense impact Rob has had on the City and the future of its young people, “When we were coming up with this whole AFH thing and we were putting together these plans, he was always there as the voice of the community, speaking for the young people who live here, grow up here, who have this unique Boston experience and with that, provide insight that really made this program of ours incredibly enriching for the young people who came here.” 

"Somehow even back in 6th grade when I met Rob I knew he had the potential to become what he is today." —jason Talbot

As AFH has evolved, Rob’s role from Co-founder and mentor to organizational leader has helped ensure that thousands of teens and mentors see the value they bring to both the field and to our community. His multifaceted career is the result of years of nurturing his expression in parallel with those he has mentored. In turn, he has grown as an artist while leading countless projects at AFH and mentoring more than three decades worth of teens and emerging artists. During this past year, Rob launched the AFH Artists Fellowship Program, which has been an opportunity to create a full circle moment to re-engage program Alumni. AFH looks forward to carrying this legacy forward.

When asked about the impact the AFH Artists Fellowship has had on the inaugural cohort, AFH Alumna and Fellow Ayana Mack, reflected on what it meant to her.

“Rob’s authenticity, work ethic, and guidance throughout the fellowship have pushed me to be more confident in my work, try new things, and continue to lean into the support and love from our community of artists, friends and fellows.” 

There will be an enduring connection between Rob and AFH, including serving as a champion and advocate for AFH’s mission and work. In addition to this, he will join AFH’s Board of Advisors, a group that commits toward supporting AFH’s continued growth.  

“He's never going to leave AFH, he'll always be part of AFH. He is the absolute heart and soul of this organization and I am just glad he is always going to be part of the family.”  —Anna Yu

Regarding Rob’s future with AFH, AFH Executive Director Anna Yu shares, “Rob’s agreed to join our Board of Advisors…he's now going to turn the table a bit and be able to tell us what we should be doing, what's going on in the community, keeping us connected, and just being a really authentic part of our Board of Advisors.”

About Rob "ProBlak" Gibbs

Rob "ProBlak" Gibbs is a visual artist, organizer, and community builder from Roxbury, MA. He transforms Boston's cultural landscape, focusing on beautifying Black and Brown communities. As Co-founder of Artists for Humanity, he devoted over 30 years to teaching creative skills to youth and partnering with institutions to offer real-time opportunities for emerging artists. Gibbs has been recognized as one of Boston's most influential people and has received numerous awards, including the Boston Celtics' Hero Among Us Award and the MLK Drum Major Award. He was the first local and Black artist to paint the coveted Dewey Square Mural on the Rose Kennedy Greenway and has been an artist-in-residence with Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and MassArt. Gibbs’ continuing practice is expansive and prolific. He envisions graffiti and hip-hop as ways to educate young people and create images of beauty and resilience through murals and contemporary fine art. View his mural works here, his NEFA Public Art Spotlight here, and more about his MFA Artist-in-Residence experience 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