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Sloan Students Market H.S. Art

By Hyun Soo Kim
Associate News Editor

Students in the Sloan School of Management are using their business skills to market air-brushed T-shirts and other art created by Boston area high school students. Five Sloan students volunteer as mentors to the Artists For Humanity program, which employs selected high school student artists.

"The program begins in middle school. We find students eligible to work in our studio. They do design work and business [work] such as marketing and advertising. The students gain experience in many different professions [while earning the] minimum wage. The only thing the students have to do [to stay in the program] is to stay in high school," said Susan Rodgerson, a co-director of the Artists For Humanity.

Since its inception two years ago, Artists for Humanity has been a non-profit organization, and all money from sales goes toward a scholarship fund for the artists.

Two weeks ago, the high school artists sold personalized air-brushed T-shirts on Newbury Street and were interviewed by a local television station. Last spring, they sold T-shirts in the lobby of the Sloan building and reaped $1,400 in three hours.

Currently, their 45-foot long sculpture, entitled "From Darkness to the Light," is on display at the Boston Aquarium.

The Artists for Humanity are now working toward a major exhibition on Dec. 4 at the Nielsen Gallery. The exhibit will feature painted jean jackets, T-shirts, sculptures, and photographs.

Sloan students advise artists

The MIT mentors have helped the Artists for Humanity write successful funding proposals, design marketing strategies, and organize an operations system for the studio.

"The program allows the graduate students to get involved in the community. You can't become a successful manager without understanding the community. I think it is crucial for a manager to get involved in the community," said Samer Salty G, a mentor who has worked with the program from the outset. "As we get involved, we learn, and we apply tools we learn at Sloan," he added.

Salty hopes to work with the Sloan Volunteer Consulting Club to add a community service requirement to the Sloan graduate program. "I would like the Sloan administration to note the value of helping the community and to expand the program to officially include community work," Salty said. Salty and the Artists For Humanity directors are also discussing the possibility of offering course credit for mentors.

One business venture that Rodgerson and the artists are planning is a partnership with the Reebok Company in which the artists design products for Reebok. The mentors will help to plan the project.

"We have had a high level of responses by employing kids.... what better thing is there to do than to put them in creative, productive work? Art is a promoter of human potential," said Rodgerson.

"I like going there because I get to paint and try new media. It's fun to get new experiences," said Damon Butler, a student in the program.

"The students are fantastically talented," Salty said.

"These kids have accomplished beyond their imaginations," Rodgerson said.