Artists for Humanity celebrates 30 years of nurturting creativity in Boston

Artists for Humanity created a hundred-foot mural in East Boston. The Boston-based organization employing arts-focused teens designed the city’s first art installation on a public stairwell spanning 54 steps. Over 30 years, AFH has been behind scores of public art works both dramatic and intimate.

When AFH individual giving, engagement and events director Courtney Ford sees a bike rack or sculpture or mural she checks for her organization’s label. Usually it’s there and evokes a smile.

“It’s kind of fun to be out in the city and see a beautiful piece of public art … and then, eight times out of 10, I check the bottom right and it usually says Artists for Humanity on it,” Ford said. “Our reputation keeps becoming more prominent as we just keep climbing and the future seems boundless.”

Three decades ago, artist Susan Rodgerson founded AFH to help teens with a passion for art grow their skills with on-the-job training. Over 30 years, thousands of local students have worked at AFH after school at the organization’s studios in South Boston. They learn painting, animation, web design, graphic design and more alongside professional mentors — many of which first learned their skills as students at AFH — and work on commissions from Fortune 400 companies, colleges and cities.

Hard-working teens often run our movie theaters, swimming pools and fast food restaurants — and deserve thanks for their hard work. But other after-school jobs can’t compare to work at AFH. Examples of AFH’s work include the Boston Arts Academy’s first professionally-built website and a sculpture built of 6,000 recycled bottle caps for Logan Airport.

“I worked at AFH as a teen, went to college, and two years later, I came back to work here,” said development assistant Maaza Fadel El Said. “What got me involved was the art. From the interview process to seeing the people already employed there and working, I didn’t need convincing [to join AFH], I said, ‘Wow, I want to do this.’”

To celebrate and support the work of AFH and founder Rodgerson – who will be leaving for a new adventure – the organization hosts the Last Greatest Party on Earth on May 14. The 30th anniversary bash offers supporters a chance to meet teen artists, buy art, dine, dance and more (food by Lydia Shire!).

AFH’s annual Greatest Parties on Earth have helped expand the organization from a dozen students to the 300 plus teens that AFH employees each year. It’s this ambitious growth that fuels so many dreams of art and education.

“Ten years ago there were some things that I would have thought, ‘Oh, no, we can’t do that,’ but I don’t feel that now,” Ford said. “What we can do is endless.”

For for information about Artists for Humanity and tickets to the Last Greatest Party on Earth, visit afhboston.org