Local Nonprofit Spotlight: Artists For Humanity

Our gallery director, Abigail Ogilvy, and AFH teens in front of their artwork

Artists For Humanity (AFH) alumnus, Tony ‘PRONZY’ Perez, was an AFH teen artist in the painting and sculpture studios for several years before becoming an assistant mentor for an additional three years (and recently exhibited at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery!). Perez reflects on how AFH impacted his growth mentally and artistically, “Growing up the oldest of ten [fourteen now] with a single mother, a lot of pressure is put on your shoulders to set an example for my siblings. I struggled with that a lot. I wasn’t the best academically, was not very athletic, definitely wasn’t good at art by any means; AFH changed that for me. They were a home away from home. Rob, Stephen, Andy, Swat -- they were all more than mentors, they were family. They molded me, artistically, mentally, and culturally. They were very honest and didn’t spare feelings. They wanted you to know that you had room to grow, so you could become the best you could become. Rob always said, “Grow on, Flow on” and I intend on doing that exactly. While they mentored me in the arts, what I appreciated from the beginning and will until the end, is how much they visibly care for our development and well-being; even if we don’t choose to be artists later on.”

Mayor Walsh stands in front of a commissioned installation in the Bank of America lobby

Not only does AFH give teens an opportunity to explore various realms of art, but the program also allows them to experience working with clients directly and coming up with creative solutions. A recent example was a project for the Bank of America lobby, which was spearheaded by a fourteen-year-old AFH teen! Academic tutoring is also an important part of the AFH program: 100% of AFH high school seniors graduate on time and go to college, including top schools like Boston College, Georgetown University, RISD, and Tufts University. 

Given the success of AFH alumni it is clear how much impact the organization has on the lives of their teen participants. By supporting their careers, AFH creates young, innovative, and informed leaders who can redistribute the tools they’ve learned from AFH to the youth around them. 

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery looks forward to hosting a two day exhibition with AFH on June 2-June 3, 2018. Join us for a Spring Mixer the evening of June 2nd, all proceeds for the event will be donated to Artists For Humanity: Learn More

Artists For Humanity's (AFH) mission is to bridge economic, racial and social divisions by providing under-resourced urban youth with the keys to long-term economic and personal self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design. AFH’s mission is built on the philosophy that engagement in the creative process is a powerful force for social change, and that creative entrepreneurship is a productive and life-changing opportunity for young people and enriches their communities. In 27+ years, AFH has grown to become a leader in youth development and one of the largest onsite employers of Boston teens. The next few years will be a transformative time for AFH with the expansion of the EpiCenter, which will allow AFH to double youth employment to 500+ teens annually. To learn more, visit: www.afhboston.org.  

Go Behind the Scenes at Artists For Humanity (AFH) where all six our bustling studios are alive with creative energy. Hear from co-founders Jason Talbot, Rob Gibbs, and Susan Rodgerson; participants Jonathan 'Pineapple' Tejeda, Jamaleek Bush, Samantha Shave, and Fred Plowright; as well as community members Nina Nielsen, Mel King, and John Cannistraro.

Artist Spotlight: Tony "Pronzy" Perez

Tony Perez’s artwork incorporates imagery, poetry and sound, meant to overwhelm and enthrall the viewer’s senses. Perez was born in Boston, MA and spent many of his formative years in Brockton, MA. The oldest of 14, Perez draws from his life experiences growing up as Afro-Latino. 


While receiving his BFA in Illustration at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design, Tony felt restricted within the confines of traditional mediums. Focusing on his artist statement as a way to push the boundaries of agency, his ideas soon formed into contextual poems. Perez then began collaborating with his brother to create soundscapes to further influence the viewer's experience.

Starting each work with a poem that captivates the human experience, Perez matches the essence of the poem with that of a person in his life. By creating the poem first, he is focusing on substance of the story rather than the physical outcome. Perez makes it known, “I am really process oriented so I live a very, ‘process before aesthetic’ lifestyle.” For Perez, it feels more authentic that way.

After completing the poem, Perez writes an abstract composition for what eventually becomes the soundscape, which he and his brother fine tune throughout the artistic process. He then begins creating the imagery for the portrait. First, Perez creates mass values by using graphite powder and sponge brushes on paper. He then brings out highlights and darken shadows using electric erasers and ebony pencils. The final outcome of his drawings remains true to his model, he places heavy emphasis on capturing their energy.

Tony "Pronzy" Perez, "Rebecca," 32 x 23.5 in. Graphite on paper

Tony "Pronzy" Perez, "Rebecca," 32 x 23.5 in. Graphite on paper

His artwork seeks to offer opportunities for the viewers to explore and converse on the complex relationships between the African, Indigenous, and European diasporas. Placing the viewer in an immersive artistic experience, Perez strives to create an environment that starts conversation about complexities within issues. His work acts as a catalyst for discussions around police brutality, rape culture, racism both internal and institutional, the importance of present parenthood and various forms of systemic oppression.

The people in Perez’s life play a major role in his motivations, influence, and his ability to work as an artist. Some of his favorite artistic inspirations come more in the form of movements rather than specific people, for this reason Hip-hop, Jazz, and Blues are key informers to his work. When asked to pick his top five individual artists to credit with inspiration, he cites Kanye West for vision innovation and craft, Kendrick Lamar for lyrical potency, Stephen Hamilton for cultural and social reflection, his brother Joshua Jackson (AKA Leo the Kind) for his collaborative nature and willingness for self-exploration and improvement, the fifth place he keeps reserved for future inspiration.

Tony Perez’s artwork, Rasheed, will be on view during The Salon Show through January 28, 2018.

Artists For Humanity: Celebrating 25 Years of Community & Progress

On a typical weekday afternoon, the main studio of Artists for Humanity is alive with the sounds of music, conversation, and laughter. AFH has created a one of a kind community for under-resourced creative youth in the city of Boston. The AFH program not only nurtures their artistic talents, but also acts as a work study, compensating them for their hard work and teaching them collaboration, entrepreneurship, and self-sufficiency. All AFH mentors have been through the program and treat their students like equals, teaching them new skills and encouraging them with respect and understanding. More than anything, AFH provides an open, welcoming space where urban youth can build positive relationships and spend their time productively while hanging out and having fun.

AFH Epicenter Main Studio Photo by Richard Mandelkorn Image Courtesy of Archinect Firms

AFH Epicenter Main Studio
Photo by Richard Mandelkorn
Image Courtesy of Archinect Firms

Artists for Humanity has played a significant role in the Boston arts scene, cultivating the next generation of artists while contributing to the community through public art, murals, corporate arts, and events all over the city. Every year they organize and host The Greatest Party On Earth, directly supports paid apprenticeships in art and design for AFH teens, and also celebrates our shared commitment to the sustainability movement. In recognition of its broad appeal, creativity, and uniqueness—and exemplifying the energy of the Innovation District— The Greatest Party on Earth has earned acclaim as one of Boston’s best fundraising events.

This year, Artists for Humanity celebrates its 25th year. What started off as a small group of students with a mission—to fight the lack of arts experiences in the Boston Public School System—now employs 250+ students annually. Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is looking forward to hosting a two-week long anniversary show of AFH student work opening on May 6, 2016, celebrating their progress in social change.

Celebrate Artists for Humanity’s years building a progressive, positive community in our city at this year’s Greatest Party on Earth on April 30, 2016!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016: Puloma Ghosh