With all the daily tales of corruption and skullduggery pervading today’s virtual reality and greater physical world, it is sometimes difficult to encounter moments of truth and grace. Thoughts of goodness and beauty become obscured by unbidden intrusions of mental irritation so that dreamers must splash their heated faces with cool water to awaken from troubled sleep. This act of rescue figuratively manifests via the salvific responses of children and artists creating beauty to dispel miasma.
Artist and educator Elton Tucker continues to help children open to the world of creative expression through his mentoring as a teacher in afterschool arts programs in Harlem and the Bronx, nurturing his students to discover a sense of pride in their own abilities, encouraging them to respect themselves and their neighbors by making art.
The Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Community Center in Harlem, established to honor the eldest of the family’s late sons, hired Elton as a part time arts instructor at the time of 9/11. In response to the horror, he saw this as an opportunity “a higher power” to help him assuage his own anguish, giving him a new sense of purpose to foster goodness after that time of overwhelming pain. He seized this tragedy as a chance to promote healing not only in others, but also in himself. Teaching children was his antidote to despair.
Now, and for the past ten years, he has worked with young people in grades K-5 at the Woodycrest Afterschool Program, inspiring hundreds of youngsters to realize artwork arising from their innate spontaneity, developing their artistic skills and honing their personal development through use of paint, collage and other media. He feels children’s artwork must be seen and appreciated by the public and proudly displays his students’ efforts at Woodycrest inside PS 126 where the program also offers dance, music, literature, computer skills and homework tutoring. From his instruction, Elton provides a lasting positive influence on his young charges’ lives and children frequently come back to visit him in the classroom after they have moved on.
Trained at The High School of Art and Design, FIT and The Art Students League, Elton originally wanted to become a designer and found he was attracted to fashion illustration, obtaining a full-time position in a buying office while freelancing sketches at lunchtime to supplement his day job.
In the 1990s, the onset of the use of the computer in illustration brought an additional intermediary layer to the act of creative expression, and Elton found himself yearning for the immediacy of the visceral tactile connection between artist and media that can only come from drawing and painting by hand. He says, “hands get messy but the heart is pure and shows up in the work.” Unlike in a computer-generated piece, the human footprint of image from the hand’s plastic manipulation of materials, expressed by both mind and body, tangibly faces the viewer as a forceful rejoinder to the homogenized sterility of pictorial mechanization in much of today’s artwork.
Elton opines that many artists don’t want to work on the computer to realize their finished pieces and prefer to rely on direct contact between human creator and page or canvas for artwork. There is an organic relationship for the artist and viewer that can be experienced only through brushstrokes and collaged elements. Exciting, when the work is based upon the uniqueness of the human spirit, contrasting with impersonal mechanized production.
One of Elton’s goals in his teaching is to support positive representations of people, cultivating emotional and physical health in the African American community. This is very important to him as he helps young people sort out the confusion of adolescence so they may blossom as vital adults. At Woodycrest he instructs students to realize giant colorful murals, creative efforts under his tutelage enlivening walls and exciting young hearts.
His own acrylic murals for the Ruth Williams Dance Company and St. Benedict’s Catholic School in Harlem, have inspired students to generate their own art. Likewise, in the studio, as he draws and paints, stimulated by his listening to a surfeit of great music, his art evolves lyrically from many materials, among them, acrylic paint, sand, and tissue paper, so that compelled by his inner voice, his creative results become emotionally tangible, and the latent feelings of viewers are stirred when his art is publicly seen.
Elton Tucker’s occupation as artist and teacher is truly the soul’s vocation, the foundational rock for growth of beneficence in a world of increasing technological depersonalization. Through him, we can experience fine inspirational fruits from his own abundant life tree as he intimately gifts us irrefutable goodness and joy for today and the future. I am privileged to know Elton Tucker as a shining beacon to our spectral modern times. G&S