Artist and gallery owner Gerald Griffin’s “Still Standing” painting hangs in the lobby of UCAN’s Nichols Center. The massive and moving painting of a young boy, amidst a turbulent backdrop, is the focal point of the once bare wall. In Gerald’s words, his work depicts the “resiliency of the spirit and the anomaly of Black people.”
When did his interest in art start? “Growing up, I never had an intention of being an artist. It grew out of my natural abilities.”
“My art is social commentary from the African-American perspective. Looking at a painting a person can see it for face value but when they walk away, they are thinking about themselves and how that piece can reflect their own experience.”
After meeting Claude Robinson, UCAN’s Executive Vice President of External Affairs and Diversity, Gerald began to learn more about the organization’s programs and services for youth and families. Growing up on the West Side, he could relate to some of the youth’s experiences. When he transferred to a new high school that offered many more resources than his previous neighborhood school, it was a paradigm shift for him.
“The opportunity to have access to things changed my perspective. When I think about the people I grew up with who did not have the same access to those things, I think about how their life could have been different,” he stated.
Visiting UCAN’s Diermeier Therapeutic Youth Home, Gerald was able to understand how the services offered by UCAN help youth and families through the trauma they experience. He noted that UCAN could be the place to change a youth’s outlook and path much like high school was for him. Although impressed by what he saw on his visit, he observed that there was no art work in the youth home.
“Art speaks to you on a lot of different levels. The images that you ingest are important. It is vital to have things that counter some of the negativity,” he stated referencing art’s role in creating a positive environment.
“When I came to the (Nichols Center) ribbon cutting (ceremony), I looked at the wall and thought it was just begging for the painting. Beyond doing business with UCAN, a large part of changing what we experience is with us not just talking about it, but being a part of the solution. So I felt compelled to donate the piece,” Gerald said.
For more information on Gerald’s work, please visit http://www.griffingalleryandinteriors.com/.