Anthony Davis was introduced to Family Matters in 2001, when he was 11 years old. He connected to the organization, with chalk in hand, via a mural project that a staff member was facilitating at Gale Academy.
“I remember that,” he says flashing a smile. “I walked around the neighborhood with chalk the entire summer. I always knew I loved art. Being at Family Matters and working with Eric and Jesus [teaching artists who partnered with the Teen Boys Programs] gave me the foundation and structure to put my ideas and love of art into a form. Watching those guys helped me to see that I could make art a part of my life forever. That mural is still there.”
Today Anthony, 22, is a student at Truman College studying art. He values learning classic forms; his personal style is inspired by the abstract lettering and freedom reflected in graffiti art.
Anthony recently returned to paint the organization’s logo on the front door. During the project, Dan McNeil, the Director of the Teen Boys Programs, introduced the young artist to a director at Cease Fire (a national organization focused on eliminating street violence). Impressed with what he saw, the Cease Fire representative commissioned Anthony to design the organization’s peace logo. As a result, his work will be featured on hundreds of Cease Fire T-shirts across the city.
Anthony recalls fondly his years in the Teen Boys Programs. He laughs as he reflects upon his experience drumming. “Not many of us liked drumming at first. As our technique improved, we enjoyed it and we began to understand what Dan was trying to teach us. Drumming is like life – it takes practice and work. If you stick with it, you eventually find a natural flow and sometimes people will appreciate what you create.”
The portraits he painted while at Family Matters still hang on the walls of the basement space (affectionately named “the roots”) that is home to the Teen Boys Programs. Anthony says he left his artwork because he wanted to inspire the guys who came after him. “I learned how to paint at Family Matters. I also learned about the importance of being positive and making good choices. I realize now that being surrounded by positive influences has made all the difference in my life.”
He recalls friends, one in particular, whose life took a critical turn. “We were a lot alike. He was smart. He loved art. He did well in school. He came from a loving family. He was a really good guy. The difference was that he didn’t have the benefit of people who were there to keep him focused on positive activities. He didn’t have adults who could support him in finding his way out of the negative vibes that can follow you on the streets.”
Anthony plans to be a graphic designer. He wants to make his art affordable and accessible to everyone. He says his life mantra is simple: “I stay positive in everything I do. No matter what comes along, or how low things may seem, I know I can find a way to climb.”