Meet Don: Artist, Musician, and Simpson Youth Program Participant

Dylan Novacek February 5, 2020

The following story was originally published by Simpson Housing Services on January 23rd, 2020. View the original source here.

Personable and humble, twenty-five-year-old Don is a participant in Simpson’s Youth Housing Program and a multifaceted, self-taught artist. He is a painter and sketch artist, a guitarist and composer. His self-expression extends to singing, rap, and writing poetry. “I love expression through art  art that can be consumed visually or audibly,” he says.  

Don’s most recent artistic work is a 12’ x 12’ mural that adorns the new music studio at 66 West, a youth housing development where Simpson provides non time-limited support services to 39 youth, ages 16-24, transitioning out of homelessness. The 66 West site is a housing development in Edina owned by Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative.

Painted in vibrant acrylics, Don created the mural to describe the influence that hip-hop and neo soul have on art. “The music reflects on the faces of the artists, and through their expressions you can feel the music,” he says.  The mural also illuminates the important role art has played in Don’s life: “Art is the way I escape. It’s a great way of coping with stress, trauma, or bullying. … When I am making art, I’m in the present moment, focused on what’s in front of me. It’s like meditation.”  

Don describes how his love for the visual arts served as a positive emotional outlet during the most challenging times of his life: when he was bullied during his middle school years and when he experienced homelessness for several six-month periods during his late teens and early twenties. “I was separated from my mom and brother. When I was shelter hopping, I would draw in my sketchbook. I would draw people in a coffee shop or wildlife in a park, putting my own spin on things,” he says. 

Two years ago, Don transitioned into Simpson’s Youth Housing Program at 66 West. “I was in a dark place. I was glad to find stability with Simpson,” he says.

Simpson Advocate Ieshia recognizes Don’s many talents and highlights one strength that has been pivotal to his success. “Don has such a calm nature. If he is facing an issue, he shares and addresses it in such a calm way, allowing him to successfully problem solve through it.” 

With housing stability, steadfast support from Simpson advocates, and his artistic calling, Don looks ahead to the future: “I’m planning on going into tattoo work. I want to apply at Minneapolis College of Art and Design.” The Simpson community congratulates Don and eagerly awaits his upcoming artistic contributions.  

Look for Don’s artwork at Simpson’s 10th anniversary Art 4 Shelter on May 13, 2020.