“More than a million people died to emancipate the African Americans,” says painter Charles Gaines. “They gave us freedom, but we must use it wisely.”
Gaines, who is colorblind, is on a mission to use his art for social change. He created a gift fellowship for black artists called the Charles Gaines Prize for Creative Persuasion. “I wanted to show that there are black artists that can be successful if they think outside the box and are creative,” says Gaines, who has lived in Harlem for nearly a decade and paints over landscapes.
Inspired by his cousin Irma Anderson’s artwork, Gaines paid his fellow painter $50 a year to paint portraits of his aunts and uncles. For every $5,000 that is donated, the artist will receive $20,000. Gaines serves as a mentor and befriends his mentees. “I tell them to bring projects to the White House because the president can be a leader,” he says. “I want to show them that there are people who care.”
The first Charles Gaines Prize was awarded to Joshua Lane, a sculptor who graduated from Yale in 2016.
Charles Gaines Prize for Creative Persuasion