Art Start is honored and excited to be included in Priority Stories, an initiative by bicycle company, Priority Bikes. Each video vignette provides a look into the lives of people making a difference, and their personal motivations behind why they devote their time and energy. Priority Stories reached out to Art Start earlier this year through Art Start board member, Natalie Brasington, to see if they could feature the Priority Story of one of our incredible volunteer artists.

Art Start’s workshop volunteers dedicate themselves to Art Start’s mission year after year. They positively and creatively connect with our participants, helping to transform a time of uncertainty into a time for personal growth and development.
— Hannah Immerman/ Art Start Co-Executive Director

Elena lives in Brooklyn, works a full time job in events at a tech company in Manhattan, and has been volunteering at Art Start since 2007.  One thing she said stood out, “I was never fair weather about anything,” and it shows the type of resolve and dedication that Elena and these volunteers have for these kids.

The piece is directed by Dan Maloney, leading commercial editor at Cut+Run NYC.  In his directoral debut, he spent time with Elena at her home, work, and at Art Start’s headquarter office, working on a silk screening project with some of Art Start’s youth.

The Priority Stories program was developed in collaboration with Dan Maloney of Cut+Run New York, Director Henry Lu, and photographer Chris Ozer, highlighting those who make it a priority to give back to their community.  

Elena was the ideal subject for this project. She was able to just be herself, and share an intimate view into the challenges that these young people face as well as her reasons for volunteering. Getting a glimpse of her passion, energy, and dedication to Art Start was inspiring.
— Dan Maloney / Cut + Run NYC


Ray, 18

From: Manhattan

Focus: Visual Arts

Ray Guzman-Flete Jr.  is a self-taught visual artist and writer, born and raised in New York City. Although Ray has never had any formal training as an artist, he adapted his style of art through drawing early in life and eventually began writing as a teenager. Thus far Ray has designed a sweatshirt that is being sold at a local vintage clothing store in Lower Manhattan.

Ray is currently working and learning as one of Art Start’s Emerging Artists-in-Residence.  As a resident of EAR Ray hopes to gain a professional advantage in the art world through networking.  He also hopes to grow as an artist through collaborating with his fellow EAR members and by studying other artist with his mentor.


Become a monthly donor and 100% of your support will go towards scholarships and the essentials for our Emerging Artists program.


Princess, Age 17

From: The Bronx

Focus: Dance

“Being an Art Start Emerging Artist gave me confidence. Now, I know what I want to do and how I want to do it.”

Princess Reese, also known as “Shorty Q”, is a 17-year old emerging “Lite Feet” dancer who always knew she loved to dance.  Born in Queens but raised in the Bronx, Princess had people dancing around her constantly; her father was an avid break-dancer and into popping, her sister was a choreographer, and her older brother was into a growing dance form called Lite Feet. Because of her unfamiliarity with Lite Feet, Princess gravitated toward it and decided to learn more.

Princess started dancing about two years ago under the training of a Lite Fee dance named Bbq. It is then that she earned her stage name, Shorty Q.  She danced with Bbq until deciding to venture off to learn and incorporate other elements of street dance to her style. She was then introduced to a genre call “bone breaking”. Since then, she has blendedboth dance styles to develop her own, very unique style presentation.  In her short dance career, Shorty Q has been a member of several dance crews including the Juice Crew and the 2 Live Crew.  She has also performed in a number of public venues and dance battles. Some of which have been filmed and put on Youtube for public viewing.  She is currently a Lady-CEO of the Lock in City organization.

As an Emerging Artist-In-Residence, Shorty Q hopes to receive technical and formal training in dance genre such as ballet and modern dance.  She hopes the introducing of these formal techniques will help improve her form, creativity, and endurance.  Keep up with Princess and her EAR experience by reading her blog: HERE


Become a monthly donor and 100% of your support will go towards scholarships and the essentials for our Emerging Artists program.


Kelvin, Age 17

Washington Heights, Manhattan

Focus: Photography

Kelvin Hady is an aspiring photographer hailing from Washington Heights Manhattan.  Kelvin’s first encounter with photography was with his family’s photo albums. His work has been in featured in multiple group exhibits, starting from high school and internships such as the Future Image Makers with New York University & Expanding the Walls residency program, made possible by The Studio Museum in Harlem. Kelvin is currently an Emerging Artist-in-Residence with Art Start.

As an emerging artist, Kelvin plans to adjust his eye as an artist on multiple levels. These levels include creating amazing photos by becoming tech savvy and learning how to use editing programs.  He also intends on seeking motivation and feeding off the energy of the aspiring artist around him. He believes everybody, whether artist or not, has things that are worth being taught. With the growing urge to create and discover, Kelvin will continue looking for more mediums to master and incorporate to his own photography. Keep up with Kelvin and his EAR experience by reading his blog HERE


Become a monthly donor and 100% of your support will go towards scholarships and the essentials for our Emerging Artists program.


                   Photo: Natalie Brasington

                   Photo: Natalie Brasington

Glenn, Age 21

From: Bronx, NY

Focus: Photography

Glenn De La Cruz is a 21-year old emerging photographer from the Bronx. She has been using her unique point of view to capture people and moments on film for the past several years. As a resident of Art Start’s EAR program, Glenn has focused much of her work on photographing series that not only display beauty in its rarest and most natural form, but also to explore ways in which photography can be used to address issues of social justice.

Through her work in the program, Glenn currently interns for the Con Artist Collective, where she is responsible for acting as the primary photographer for all Con Artist events, uploading, editing, and labeling event photo’s, and managing the collective photographer database to ensure organization of photo’s.

When not behind the camera, Glenn is busy being a daughter,  friend, and dreamer.

Follow Glenn HERE


For #GivingTuesday – a global day that encourages giving back – we are proud to be sharing the stories from Art Start’s Emerging Artist in Residence (EAR) program with you.  Most importantly, Art Start is crowdfunding two scholarships for our EAR program in 2015.

Check the video


There are two key ways you can make a difference:

1) Visit Art Start’s campaign page and check out the amazing stories about our residents

2) Make a contribution towards an EAR scholarship; we have some special perks on offer as a thanks for your support.



Ajeé Symone, Age 19

From: Brooklyn, NY

Focus: Fashion Styling / Singing

Brooklyn-born aspiring stylist, Ajeé Symone Mapp, has always has a knack for projects that required artistic creativity.  She began singing and setting unique style trends early on in life.  Her voice and ability to transform simple outfits into en vogue masterpieces soon gave her notoriety amongst family and friends.  The attention she received led her to begin considering both vocal performance and styling as her career path and as her personal contribution to the world.

Throughout her Art Start residency, Ajeé has earned the role of working alongside a number of high profile celebrity stylists, photographers, and make up artist in the New York area. She has interned for Anyway MGMT and Natalie Brasington Photography, and enrolled in coursework at Fashion Institute of Technology as well as private vocal lessons to hone her confidence and passion for musical expression. Her fashion is inspired by life experiences and everyday people.

You can follow Ajeé’s progress on her BLOG


What do you do at Art Start?

I’m a Visual Arts Teaching Artist for weekly workshops held at a Brooklyn family shelter.         

How long have you been with Art Start?

I signed on as a volunteer during the Spring of 2012, right after completing an internship with Art Start that Winter.


Can you share a special moment at Art Start?

Every time that I’ve personally managed to break through a kid’s walls of exclusion and distrust in the midst of bonding over both the art and casual rapport we’ve created together, that’s a precious moment. Having them voluntarily lower their guard and grow accustomed to– even become a fan of– your presence, surprisingly in the span of one or two sessions, reaffirms that. I’ve been privileged to experience several of these moments, which all make it easier and more necessary to return back the next week, the next month, the next year…


What do you love to do?

It’s taken a while for me to realize it, but I love working with the youth, in any and every capacity. From education to tutoring to mentoring to simple recreational activities, it always serves to be a gratifying experience from both sides of the table.

I currently work as an Assistant Teacher at a private institution for children diagnosed with ASD. The position doesn’t truly allow me a considerable amount of freedom to encompass art into the workings of the lesson material beyond a superficial incorporation. So, having the opportunity to focus freely and centrally on art without expectations or constraints with young, open minds has been so refreshing.


Has your time at Art Start influenced you in any way? 

My time at Art Start thus far has been a facilitator of so many things. These weekly sessions have helped to certify the notion that my passion does reside well with working with the youth. The work accomplished with the children of Art Start has influenced my former outlook on art, with respect to the manner in which it ought to be created and employed in order to express one’s emotions, thoughts, and personality. It’s also helped me to conjure the dormant artist bound within me as we collectively work to foster the budding artist bound within every single child that comes.


The Portrait Project

Opening Exhibition
Thursday, October 2, 2014 | 6-9pm
The Highline Loft | 526 West 26th Street, 5th Floor | NYC

Photo: David Johnson

Photo: David Johnson


Photography by Natalie BrasingtonAdrien BroomJosh DalsimerSteve Giralt, and David Johnson, as well as photographers Heidi GutmanAlina Gozin’aDavid LangZachary Maxwell Stertz,and Ken Pao.

Essays by Rosa JH Berland, Rashida Bumbray, Allegra Ben-Amotz, Robbie Whalen, Amanda McCormick, Sarah Barrett, Nina Spierer, Frank Santo, Judith Sackoff, Ellen Neuborne, Alexandra Talty, Nichole LeFebvre, and Annie Coreno.

About The Portrait Project

Art Start’s Portrait Project connects Art Start’s participating homeless, foster, formerly incarcerated, and otherwise marginalized New York City teens to develop an exciting and empowering opportunity to dream. Through visual art and creative writing workshops, in-depth video interviews, professional photo shoots and elaborate composite imaging, youth first imagined themselves without barriers, then saw themselves living it, in a large-format photographic print. With photography, wardrobe, hair and makeup, prop styling, set design and composite retouching, a photographic tableau has been created for each youth so they can experience the power and permanence of seeing themselves at the highest expression of themselves.


Mellz, Age 17

From: Brooklyn, NY

Focus: Emceeing

My name is Isaac Murphy but on stage I’m Mellz. I started rapping when I was 12 but I was garbage and I didn’t take it seriously until I got locked up. I’m from Bedstuy Brooklyn, NY and I love Hip Hop. I mean, I want to be one of the nicest MCs – no questions asked . In my time at Art Start as an emerging artist, I have performed for Africa Bambata at Zulu Nation events, The Playroom Theater, Russell Simmons’ Rush Arts Gallery, Carnegie Hall, and Town Hall with the legendary Mark Nadler, Chita Rivera, and opening for Bill Cosby. I”ve been fortunate to perform at Hot 97’s event, hosted by Kevin Powell, and to be recognized by internet radio host Benny Negro who interviewed me on Turn it Up a Notch Radio at The Matrix Studios in Bronx, NY.

My biggest dream is to perform at Madison Square Garden, packed to its maximum capacity. I also want to perform in Times Square on New Year’ Eve, as as the ball drops. These are big dreams that I must achieve, and if I don’t I must at least come close to achieving them. Hip Hop is my life.  Like I always say, “I’m NEVER SATISFIED. I want BETTER and BETTER”. So stay tuned because “YOU GOT MELLZ.”  Let’s Go.


Meet Cathy, a dedicated visual arts volunteer, graphic designer, wrapping paper designer and member of Art Start’s Young Professionals Committee. She inspires us daily and we think that she will inspire you too.

What do you do at Art Start?

I’m on the Young Professionals Committee of the Executive Board and former art workshop volunteer.

How long have you been a volunteer?

I volunteered on a weekly basis for 2 years and recently took a break to focus more time and energy on my board member duties.

Can you talk about a special moment at Art Start?

Every time I saw a smile on a youth’s face, especially in excitement for Art Start, was a special moment for me. It feels good to know you’re a part of something that brings joy to others. It’s proof that we are making a positive impact on these youth’s lives somehow. And that’s all I’m really looking to do. Create positive space; make a lasting impression.

Perhaps my most special memories were working with one youth who had a speech deficiency. It was difficult to understand what he was saying, so it challenged me to look for cues in his tone and gestures to understand him. It was a reminder of how we all connect as humans, despite our age, language, circumstances, etc., on such a basic level. He was no less eager or able than anyone else to create and express. And it was always a pleasure to create with him.

What do you love to do?

More than anything, I love to help people. I love to affect change and bring positivity and openness and togetherness into the world. And I think a great way to do this is through art. I own a wrapping paper company and I find inspiration for my designs every day–from elaborate art installations in this great city, to the tile patterns I walk across every day to work. From a child’s drawing to a puddle of spilled milk, inspiration is everywhere. By infusing these things into my wrapping paper, I’m able to bring what inspires me into an accessible product that happens to be associated with joy and celebration. How great is that?

Has your time at Art Start influenced you or your art in any way?

Absolutely. I took over the Art Start Instagram feed on nights I volunteered, so I was constantly taking pictures of the youth’s art and their process. Doing that made me look that much closer at what they were creating. I’m always fascinated by what they come up with, the depth of their creative minds, and how skilled they are. This makes me think twice about the art I make and the patterns I create. It pushes me to step back into my youthful creative mind–when I feel it was at its freest. And it’s just so inspiring to watch these little humans create beautiful art.


M. Bottiglieri supports Art Start with cash donations and pledges of donations from ongoing profits for Art Start’s Homeless Youth Outreach Program, as well as internship opportunities for artistic teens participating in Art Start’s Emerging Artist in Residence program.   The M. Bottiglieri team recently visited one of Art Start’s partnering shelters to create interpretive ladybug drawings and expressions, inspired by real live ladybugs and the their cocinella logo.