Autumn de Forest encouraged her peers in New York to explore the arts with the Turnaround Arts program.
Autumn, 14, has been painting since she was 5 years old, creating fun and whimsical artwork that is collected around the world. Her accomplishments so far have included humanitarian efforts with Red Cross and the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. Most recently, she was awarded the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award for Painting and Art in November 2015 and presented artwork to Pope Francis himself.
“Just talking to someone with such wisdom and such tolerance and love and the things that he’s done for the world since he’s been elected…that was the best experience of my life,” she says.
Fox 5 New York chronicled the young artist’s latest efforts to support art education and awareness as she visited PS 165 in Brownsville, Brooklyn to give students around her age an art lesson. She did so with Turnaround Arts, a program of the President’s Committee of the Arts and Humanities that promotes art education in 27 school districts around the country.
“I am so honored to be with Turnaround Arts,” she says.
Autumn previously worked with Turnaround Arts at Savoy Elementary School in Washington, D.C., where she spoke with pre-K and fifth-grade students. Since the students at PS 165 were her age, Autumn decided to take a different approach to the hands-on portion of the day.
“When I came there I wanted to make it more casual,” she says. “What I did was, instead of teaching them something, I thought ‘what if they could do it themselves, what if it was something by them?’”
Autumn came up with the idea of taking photos of the students and editing them until they were simplified versions of their features. These were then projected onto a canvas that the students painted, essentially creating self-portraits.
“It ended up becoming a fantastic experience, and the kids were just beautiful, their minds were just so ready to learn and experiment,” Autumn says.
Students in the Fox 5 story expressed their gratitude of learning from a renowned contemporary artist.
“It was exciting, and the fun thing about it was that she is around our age, so I thought it was really amazing,” said Chrishauna Harper, a student at PS 165, in the Fox 5 video.
The art materials for the Turnaround Arts event were donated by the Park West Foundation.