Metro West Daily News Cover story on Green House Graphics

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FRAMINGHAM – The day before the big show, six young artists clustered around burly, bearded David Sebastian, who mixed advice about pricing their work with praise for “creating a window to your world.’’
“Everyone has produced lots of good work. You’ve done an amazing job. Now, we’ve got to get you ready to sell it,’’ he said.
Resembling Mr. Clean with elaborately tattooed forearms, Sebastian has served since late 2012 as “mentoring artist” for Green House Graphics, a 12-week program that uses art to teach “work and life skills’’ to young adults enrolled at Tempo: Young Adult Resource Center at 68 Henry St., Framingham. Tempo is a program of Wayside Youth and Family Support Network.
Four days a week, he teaches “9 dry and 4 wet media’’ techniques during 4-hour sessions to “young adult artists’’ from across the area who receive a stipend for participating in the program.
On Wednesday morning, he worked with peer mentors and program graduates Jamie DiLiddo and Scott “Scotty Mac’’ McAlarney to prepare the group for an evening exhibition and sale of their work at Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham.
After the artists covered a table in the basement studio with their drawings and paintings, Sebastian encouraged a group discussion about titling and pricing their work to attract paying customers.
Dressed in black and wearing a bandana, Graham Lage showed several illustrations including a darkly clever self-portrait, titled “Frustration,’’ of himself collapsing face first onto a paint-splattered drawing board.
“I love the fact I can come here and do my thing and get amazing feedback,’’ said the 23-year-old Framingham resident who has trained to be a chef.
Sisters Nicole and Jamie DiLiddo had more than a dozen pictures mostly of young girls, often alone, their hands covering their faces, sometimes with ghostly figures hovering in the background.
Chris Burpee, who described the studio as “a fun, goofy place,’’ would be showing and selling his pencil and charcoal drawings of the Hulk, the Boston Bruins and a sleek Bugatti sports car.
“I like coming here a lot. Dave is a really good influence,’’ said the 23-year-old Holliston resident. “I had some problems with anger management. This is a calming place. There’s no stress. Art has become my way to express myself.’’
Jonah Jones, 19, of Grafton said his acrylic paintings of agonized faces titled “rage” and “broken” were “creative outlets” that helped him deal with “my anger issues.”
Several artists spoke of dealing with depression and another said living with dyslexia often left him frustrated.
After long struggles, McAlarney and Nicole DiLiddo have overcome heroin addiction and find personal satisfaction in art.
A muscular bodybuilder, McAlarney paints striking “spacescapes’’ of distant galaxies and has started his own business airbrushing T-shirts and tattoos and selling street art.
Tempo program director Yolanda Ortiz, who designed Green House’s curriculum with Sebastian, explained the program, now in its fourth cycle, aims to teach jobs skills in a supportive environment.
Over the last year, she said Tempo has helped more than 100 adults between 17 and 24, who are dealing with mental health issues, homelessness, varied addictions or limited family support.
“Every young adult comes to us voluntarily. Maybe they’ve been recommended by their doctors or schools. Along with the art, we try to sprinkle in job skills and time management like showing up on time for court dates and coming back from lunch breaks on time. Sometimes, it’s just how to work as a team and cooperate with the person sitting next to you,’’ said Ortiz.
Now working as a Tempo intern, program graduate Ariana Cyusa said she’d been “lost, depressed and confused’’ when she entered Green House’s first cycle.
Her family fled genocidal violence in Rwanda, Africa, and came to the U.S. when she was young. She grew alienated from her parents and spent more than two years homeless and living in shelters as she struggled with alcohol abuse.
Cyusa described Green House as “therapeutic’’ and said Sebastian “supported’’ her efforts to paint a loving portrait of her mother and post it on Facebook that led them to re-establish relations.
“I’ve got my first apartment. I’m working on a career,’’ she said. “Being in this creative space did so much good for me.’’
At the Thursday evening exhibition attended by Green House staff and artists, more than 50 visitors viewed their art, eventually buying 21 pieces for around $1,200 and ordering several commissioned works. Each Green House artist sold at least one work.
Alex Fox, 24, of Marlborough showed his illustrations based on the video game “The Legend of Zelda’’ to his mom, grandmother and family.
A beaming Nicole DiLiddo said she’d sold seven of nine works – “to pay the rent’’ and her sister, Jamie, had sold several of her own.
Beyond teaching new art techniques, she said the program “helped me a lot socially and other ways like writing resumes.’’
Nicole described Sebastian as “a non-judgmental person who’ll listen and understand.’’
“I think Green House helps young people know they’re not alone. It connects you with resources,’’ she said. “You learn that there’s help out there.’’
Contact Chris Bergeron at or 508-626-4448. Follow us on Twitter @WickedLocalArts and on Facebook.