Lance Estos Bradley received his first paint set from his grandfather in the 70s.
Around that time, the first Star Wars movie premiered, and he used his new set to paint a portrait of Luke Skywalker. The Harlem native was hooked and has since become an accomplished artist and educator.
For 18 years, Lance has used his skills to teach art to Children’s Aid youth and now, he is engaging young artists at the Whitney Young Jr. Campus in the Bronx through the Youth Arts Initiative.
Middle school students attend the program four days a week and are encouraged to attend open studios on Saturdays to work on their portfolios. About 20 students participate in the program, which is a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, learning to work with a variety of mediums.
Students recently constructed and designed a pair of sneakers using a 3D mold. They poured epoxy, a type of glue, into the mold and waited for the mixture to cure before adding color.
The students used markers and watercolors to create the color palette and design for their shoes and created a stand for their sneakers, using it as another way to showcase their designs.
“What I found working with the kids is that they needed something more intricate to work on, to get their creative juices flowing,” he said. “That’s why I came up with this project.”
Though some of these concepts are advanced for their age, Lance said he wants to instill confidence in his students.
“I really want them to believe in themselves and to know anything is possible,” he said. “If they do decide to use one of these skills, they can build a career. They can start a business. There are a lot of different avenues they can take.”
He is also proud of the students who have stepped up to mentor their peers and in some cases, lead classes for the day.
“I have students that have a lot of potential in teaching other students,” he said. “They’re really engaged. That is one of the principles were trying to teach – peer on peer teaching.”
Currently, students are learning about the silkscreen printing process. Similar to the sneaker project, students will use several mediums – pencils to draw the initial design, a computer to recreate the design digitally, and stencils and paint to print their designs on t-shirts and jean jackets.
In June, program participants from our sites at C.S. 61, Whitney Young Jr. Campus, C.S. 211, the East Harlem Community Center, Frederick Douglass Community Center, and the Dunlevy Milbank Community Center will display their work at a culminating event and will even be able to sell some t-shirts to the crowd.