Angels Among Us
Dick Cyr, at 74, is still very much a part of the place, too. He heads up fundraisers (there are plans for another addition in the spring), tells his story, and meets the families who’ve found solace at David’s House.
On one recent Thursday, Dick is giving a tour of the place to a friend. Halfway through, he stops to talk to a young father named Benjamin from Concord, New Hampshire, whose 36-day-old son, Brendin, hasn’t been able to breathe on his own. Benjamin and his wife, Jody, have been here a month. “He okay?” Dick asks.
“Not really,” Benjamin says. “Up and down. It’s been stressful. I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee,” he adds, directing his eyes toward the cup in his right hand. “But I’d be living in my car if it weren’t for this place. Everybody here is amazing. It’s felt like home. In fact, that’s what my wife and I call it. At the end of the day, we say, ‘Let’s go home.’”
For more on David’s House, visit: davids-house.org
The Artist’s Touch
In the mid-1980s, Susan Rodgerson, a painter living in Massachusetts’ South Shore region, had what a lot of artists crave. She had name recognition, she could support herself with her work, and she even had a local gallery fronting the rent for her Boston studio as she prepared for an upcoming exhibition. But Rodgerson needed a change.
“Making art is about learning who you are, and I was tired of myself,” she says. “I was tired of seeing what I was about. I wanted to know about other people and build a community around creating things.”
Through a part-time teaching stint, Rodgerson saw an opportunity to bridge some important gaps: between urban students and the art world, between Boston’s youth and the business community, between how things are made and how stuff gets sold. The idea centered on creating collaborative art projects with students, works that could then be sold to Boston businesses. “Their voices would be on the walls of big banks and law offices,” she explains. And the program would be self-funded; the sale of one project would cover the costs of the next one. It was bold and unique and not entirely understood. Rodgerson approached several Boston middle schools about her plan. On her 14th try, she finally got a yes.
In May 1991 Artists for Humanity (AFH) launched in the cramped library space of a Dorchester middle school. A small group of eighth-graders turned out for the program, and over the course of three intense weeks met every day after classes to create a 4×12-inch oil painting, the rights to which were eventually sold to Nellie Mae, the national student-loan program, for use on the cover of its annual report. When it was over and the summer break hit, Rodgerson’s students asked what was next.
They still are. Now in its 21st year, AFH serves 225 Boston youth, ages 14 to 20, here each year, and another 2,000 through adjunct programming. Every day at around 3:00, young people descend on AFH’s South Boston headquarters, an airy, light-filled LEED Platinum building (dubbed the “EpiCenter”) designed by one of Rodgerson’s former students and filled with studio and woodshop space for painting, video, graphic design, silk screening, photography, Web design, and sculpture.