Meet the Apprentices Part 4

Each week, we will interview members of The Art School Without Walls, Vol. 6 to learn more about the apprentices, their journey as artists and their aspirations


Vince Maximin Photo: Vince Maximin

Vince Maximin
Photo: Vince Maximin


AGE: 21

JOINED Cre8TiveYouTH*INK: 2010

Vince is one of the first Cre8tiveYouTH*ink members, working on every one of the group’s projects to date. He joined the group as a sophomore at the Brooklyn High School of the Arts. As he practiced graffiti and street art from a young age, this current project is close to his heart. Vince is currently a second year student at Parsons with a focus on fine arts. He hopes to bridge his interest in street art with his studies, which stress a more traditional focus on painting, drawing, and sculpture.


What has been your favorite part of working on the project?

Getting to see everybody since I haven’t gotten to work with them in a while. I’ve been waiting. Jerry told me about the project way back in August, so ever since then I’ve been waiting. I was like, c’mon Jerry!

Can you talk about your street art?

I started graffing in 2005 when I first came to the country from St. Lucia. A mural by my elementary school caught my interest. So, I started practicing and just randomly met people. I would be writing and I’d see someone else, we’d set up a crew, all of that. Then I started doing murals in 2009 with Groundswell Mural.

What is your other artwork like?

My subject lately has been death, Dia de los Muertos. I guess I became interested in it after my mother died. It’s my fuel for creating art, the curiosity of what happens to us after death. At Parsons, the fine art department is very conceptual, so most of my work is figurative.

Are you interested in the conceptual elements of art?

Yes, I’m interested in the conceptuality. In school they teach us what stuff means. It’s not just about whether it looks cool. It’s finding the meaning, talking about the paint strokes. It gives the work more meaning to know more about why the artists did what they did and what’s behind it. For example, I like Basquiat more now, knowing about why he painted what he painted.

Where do you see yourself and your art going in the future?

Right now I have been trying to get out of the gallery scene actually. I want to make art thats more accessible to non-artsy people. When I take pictures here I try to capture the happiness and the love and joy of the artists. I’m more interested in that than what’s going on in a gallery.


Cynthia Martinez Photo: Robin Cembalest

Cynthia Martinez
Photo: Robin Cembalest


AGE: 21

JOINED Cre8TiveYouTH*INK: 2013

Cynthia joined the Cre8tiveYouTH*ink team just last summer while she was an incoming sophomore at Queens College. She is currently a junior at Queens College majoring in Art Education, which combines her interests in teaching and fine art. Cynthia knew about the group from her time at Brooklyn High School of the Arts. She met Mista Oh while doing SAT prep but did not join the group until a few years later. She has been a valuable team player ever since.

Are you inspired by the artists you’re working with on this project?

I found Chris Stain’s story inspiring since we grew up in similar neighborhoods. But unlike Chris, I started making art in school, rather than going out into the street. I guess creativity and inspiration are different that way. Some people get more inspired from street art, which makes sense to me.

What makes you want to teach?

My experience is with young kids. They’re easier to teach because they’re so eager. I started when my sister had her baby. I started teaching him with art materials and now he loves painting! I got more experience afterwards with the Studio In A School program, teaching during the summer at campsites, for 1st graders to 5th graders.

Who are some of your favorite artists at the moment?

Mostly, I have a variety but my all time favorite right now is Jeremy Geddes. His paintings are crazy. They’re oil paintings. I see inspiration in them. Oil painting is something new that I’m doing more of now. I prefer portraits of people’s faces, with all the different expressions they can make.

What is some advice you would give to younger artists?

Just keep pushing. Do what you love. Don’t stop. It’s important to find a group, to talk to people and get yourself out there.


Crew Chief Chris Photo: Vince Maximin

Crew Chief Chris
Photo: Vince Maximin


AGE: 22

JOINED Cre8TiveYouTH*INK: 2010

Chris was one of the founders of Cre8tiveYouTH*ink and is one of the Art School Without Walls Vol. 6’s crew chiefs. Discovering a love for art early on, Chris joined Mistah Oh’s SPARK Program to visit galleries and artist studios when he was a senior at the Brooklyn High School of the Arts. From there, the burgeoning club began to work on murals and public work projects before becoming the Cre8tiveYouTh*ink program it is today. In addition to his responsibilities as crew chief, he also teaches Parkour and Tricking.

Do you feel differently now as crew chief than when you started?

I’ve always felt like I was helping run the show but it wasn’t until the LES project that I felt more of a responsibility. These are kids that are younger than me but they’re also the kids that were in my school. I’m a representation of them and they’re a representation of me. I was sneaking into art class teaching them, but I was learning from them also. It feels good to see them having fun.I always want to make sure they’re doing their thing.

You are also interested in martial arts, such as Parkour and Tricking. Do you see a connection between the visual arts and martial arts?

The way I see things at this point is I see it all as art and a process. If there is one thing I learned from Jerry, it’s to appreciate the process even when it sucks. And as Moise says is “it’s all just shapes.” With Parkour and Tricking, it’s all basic movements. It’s all basically walking. It’s all basic kicks. So backside 900 kick is just a tornado kick. Just like a circle is just a circle before becoming a head, or a muscle, or a car, or whatever.

So going forward do you want to teach? Integrating art?

I’m confident in my teaching ability. I have the gift to be able to explain anything to its smallest point and that’s how I got my job at the gym teaching martial arts. The people who were the most skilled didn’t know how to break it down to who we’d call a “muggle” (a person who wasn’t born with the natural ability). I feel like the top priority is to become a better person. And that’s the main thing I try to teach. There’s a community and I want to make it better.

Where would you like to see Cre8tive YouTH*ink go?

We’re kind of growing up and we all want to be independent artists. We want to eventually contribute with our own pieces. We’re a talented group. We’ve shown that at the Influx project. And of course we need to find new kids. We can’t be Cre8tive YouTH*ink alone. The family has to grow.

-Nicole Casamento

Meet the Apprentices Part 3

Each week, we will interview members of The Art School Without Walls, Vol. 6 to learn more about the apprentices, their journey as artists and their aspirations


Naiky Paradis  Photo: Vince Maximin

Naiky Paradis
Photo: Vince Maximin


NAME: Naiky Paradis

AGE: 19

JOINED Cre8TiveYouTH*INK: 2012

Naiky Paradis joined the Cre8tiveYouTH*ink team when she was a junior at Brooklyn High School of the Arts. She is currently finishing her 1st year at Parsons where she studies architectural design. She is particularly interested in conceptual design and urban planning and hopes to find innovative ways to fuse her interests in fine art and architecture, with an eye on how people respond to visual stimuli in their environments.

What made you decide to major in architectural design?

I actually want to branch out from architecture eventually but I want to gain that knowledge first. It’s not just about learning how to draw buildings  but also learning how people engage with their environments, noticing how people react to places. It’s so built into our brains we don’t even notice it most of the time. If we feel bad in a place, it’s often because we’re not comfortable in the physical space but we don’t process it like that. So, having the knowledge of the bigger sphere of how that works would allow me to do so much more in the future.

Are there any specific architects who inspire you right now?

Moon Hoon, who’s from South Korea. He’s not very famous but I really like what he does with spaces. It’s insane and really inspires me.

Do you see a relationship between what you learn from architecture and what you learn from painting?

Oh definitely! They’re so related. Even though as artists we say, “oh it’s just for myself; I paint for myself,” we always really have an intended viewer in mind. Someone’s going to see it and maybe notice something special in it. A mural, a painting–they affect us the same way a building does.

What is your favorite part of working on these projects?

Well, I’m very individualistic normally. I usually work by myself and like to do everything alone so these projects help me learn to be a team player.

What advice would you give to younger artists?

Try everything. That’s what helps you the most when you’re young. I had always drawn as a kid but I started painting one day simply because a teacher told me to and I loved it. In college, I started learning about digital art and graphic design which I’ve really gotten into also. So, by being open, I’ve done so many things for the first time and that helped me discover what I do and don’t like, which helps me figure out what to do going forward.


Danny Saab Photo: Vince Maximin

Danny Saab
Photo: Vince Maximin


AGE: 20

JOINED Cre8tiveYouTH*ink: 2011

Danny Sabb became involved with Cre8tiveYouTH*ink during his sophomore year at Brooklyn High School of the Arts when his art teacher paid special attention to his talent and encouraged him to pursue art more seriously. After helping Sabb enter his work in contests and search for art-related jobs, she advised him to meet with Mista Oh! He delved right into painting projects with the team after their 1st meeting and has remain involved ever since, while pursuing individual projects and joining other art collectives.

What do you think about the photo and the name of the mural, Sign Language?

I think the title is kind of mysterious, in a good way. The photo speaks to you if you actually take a minute to stare at it. What’s so moving about the picture is that the boy is really climbing streets signs to grab a tire to make bikes with. He’s willing to go up there and do what he has to do. That’s what the picture in saying to me: you have to reach for your goals. That’s moving.

Advice for younger artists?

If art is what you want to do then go for it. No one can really stop you. No one can tell you what to believe in. You have to do what you have to do.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I see my work in a gallery. It doesn’t have to be a popular one, I just want people to know that Danny is out there. I also like music, so I wouldn’t mind being a musician. I mean, hey, it’s related to visual art . They are like cousins!

Who are some of your favourite artists?

My favorite artist of all time is Vincent van Gogh. Starry Night is the bomb! I like the way he did the stars. I really tried to re-paint it in the eighth grade. It wasn’t too hard. It just didn’t come out the way his painting did. It came out great though. I created my own version.

Any last thoughts?

Yeah, I love Cre8tiveYouTH*ink!


Raquel Castillo Photo: Vince Maximin

Raquel Castillo
Photo: Vince Maximin


AGE: 18

JOINED Cre8tiveYouTH*ink: 2013

Raquel Castillo is one of the newer, younger Cre8tiveYouTH*ink members. She joined the crew during her senior year at Brooklyn High School of the Arts. Self-motivated and artistically driven from a very young age, Castillo prepared an art portfolio to apply to New York City middle schools without any adult help. Art has been an integral part of her life ever since. She is currently a freshman at Parsons where she majors in fashion design and minors in fashion communication.

Why do you think art is important?

It’s a universal thing and for youth it opens up different possibilities. For me, I wasn’t inspired by other subjects and my teachers weren’t helping me in middle school. And in high school, all the kids were focused on being cool but art gave me something better to focus on.

What kind of art do you create outside of Cre8tiveYouTH*ink?

I make different things but I focused on painting for my Parsons portfolio. I decided to do self-portraits. They were very big and mostly black and white, with a little red. The theme was being frozen in time. I wore red lipstick for them because I thought it was really empowering. Fashion in general can be very empowering.

How so?

You can put something on that compliments you really well and it transforms you. It can give you self-esteem and make you feel like nobody can mess with you.

Who is your favorite artist?

Alyssa Monks is my favorite artist right now. My favorite fashion designer is Elie Saab. He had no professional training. He just started when he was a kid by making clothes for his sister, which turned into these amazing gowns. I got into fashion and art initially because I loved wedding gowns.

What advice would you give to a younger artist?

Whatever kind of art you make, keep a record and find a program that focuses on that–that’s the first step. From there you’ll be able to learn about other art projects and meet other artists.


Edwina Pierre Photo: Vince Maximin

Edwina Pierre
Photo: Vince Maximin


AGE: 20

JOINED Cre8tiveYouTH*ink: 2010

Edwina Pierre was one of the Cre8tiveYouTH*ink pioneers. She became acquainted with Mista Oh! when she took his SAT Prep course at Brooklyn High School of the Arts during her sophomore year. When Mista Oh! discussed the possibility of working on art projects, she was game. Along with the other original Cre8tiveYouTH*ink members, Pierre helped artist Sofia Maldonado with outreach programs in New York City public schools before they began working on mural projects. The experience was especially fruitful for Pierre who is currently studying human services at City Tech with the goal of working with inner-city youth in the future.

What was  one of your favorite parts of working on this project?

They had Martha Cooper’s book Subway Art at a skate shop that I went to and I was looking at the pages, thinking, “that is pretty cool,” so when she showed up here and I was like, “Oh My Gosh…”

I also really like working with the team again. There is a support system in Cre8tiveYouTH*ink, which is very important. A lot of people become distanced from what they did and who they were with in high school and I’m still involved with my friends now and continue to make art even though I’m going to school to become a guidance counselor.

Why do you want to become a guidance counselor?

I like giving back to the community. Most of the projects I’m working on focus on vulnerable populations. Teens are by definition a very vulnerable population because most people don’t listen to them. But they have voices, they have interests and it’s very important for the larger community to recognize that they need help. Organizations like Cre8tiveYouTH*ink are very good for teenagers because art can minimize all the bad influences around them and give them something positive to focus on instead.

How do you think others can help aspiring artists?

It just takes one person to believe in them. It all started with my middle school art teacher so basically you just need to inspire that person even if they can’t do something well at first. It takes practice.

What would you tell the young artists themselves?

Be so focused on something like that that you don’t realize that you’re in a bad neighborhood or anything. Focus on art, music or whatever interests you have. It gets you through the hard times and helps relieve stress. Don’t give up. Even if you don’t go to school for it, still have it as a hobby.

Are you excited to see the mural finished on the new building?

Yes! I can’t wait to see the mural on the building. We’ve done panel to panel to panel and now that the project is almost done, we’re going to see it and be like, “that’s our baby.” It’s important to see things grow.

-Nicole Casamento

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