“One for collector, one for community” is the slogan for young artist Adam Jonah’s United Imagination project. It means that for every installation piece sold, the 18-year-old from Port Washington will donate a piece to a children’s organization, school or community center.
“My mission is to express myself but also to encourage and inspire other people to express themselves and to feel the joy of expressing themselves,” he said, illustrating that his project’s slogan reflects his overall outlook on his art.
The project includes interactive art installations consisting of imaginary creatures painted atop nature photographs that Mr. Jonah took himself. Viewers are free to draw on the artwork, which can then be erased to clear the way for other people to come up and add their own creations.
Mr. Jonah said his artistic style is generally seen as “childish and simplistic,” which is deliberate, as a way to inspire joyfulness and playful imagination both in himself and others.
“This project is geared toward people of all ages and, maybe especially, adults. Because sometimes as you get older, it can be intimidating to express yourself,” he said. “Sometimes you can be afraid to do it, but I hope that with these pieces, especially since it can be erased, people can go and express themselves without any fear and without the risk.”
Three installations from his project will debut at Ille Arts in Amagansett as part of the upcoming group show “Eleven Under Thirty,” which features the work of 11 artists from around the country who are under the age of 30. The show opens on Saturday, April 8, and runs through Monday, May 1.
Mr. Jonah came up with this philanthropic project idea after being inspired by two events. Last summer while spending time on the East End, he began experimenting with nature photography. He was moved to combine his newfound interest in photography with his imaginary style of art, thus mixing elements of reality with the imaginary.
The other event was his younger sister’s experience at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens.
“My sister had an unfortunate accident and broke her arm and was in the children’s waiting room in the hospital,” Mr. Jonah said. “She was saying how it can be a scary and daunting experience and how some art could’ve uplifted her spirits at the time. Her talking to me about that made me want to do something about that.”
Mr. Jonah has been working to partner with several organizations as places to donate his art, like Cohen Children’s Medical Center, which will receive his first donation, as well as Fiver Children’s Foundation.
Last summer while still attending Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, Mr. Jonah, being an ambitious self-taught artist, wanted to make his presence known on the East End after becoming familiar with its vibrant arts scene. Mr. Jonah continued his story: “So I filled up my car and put a bunch of my paintings that I created from the summer and started driving from gallery to gallery. They were definitely kind and respectful but it was very vulnerable for me and I was rejected basically every single time. The last one that I went to was Ille Arts in Amagansett and [the gallery director] Sara De Luca, she was very different from the rest. She went out of her way to take an interest and to speak to me about my art and start a relationship with me.”
Ms. De Luca ended up inviting Mr. Jonah to be featured in her annual Holiday Show with about 140 other artists, and now she invited him to appear in Amagansett for a second time as part of “Eleven Under Thirty.”
“I used to be a teacher and an educator both in high school and in colleges and I appreciate when somebody who is young and enthusiastic like Adam puts himself or herself out there and present their work,” Ms. De Luca said. “When he approached me I was completely taken by how professional, how sweet he was, how interesting it was talking to him. He’s a very smart kid.”
The other artists in the group show alongside Mr. Jonah include two East End artists, Sara Salaway and Morgana Tetherow-Keller; college friends Brianna Ashe and Kevin Pomerleau from western Massachusetts; Glorimar Garcia, Evan Halter and Ella Wearing who went to graduate school together at Rutgers University in New Jersey; the gallery director’s daughter Amanda Brown from New York City; Claire Hentschker, who is the only artist in the show with a video installation; and photographer and frame maker Burleigh Morton.
Ms. De Luca organized “Eleven Under Thirty” because she wanted to support young artists and give them a forum to express their vision and dreams.
“It’s important that we support the arts,” she said. “It’s important that freedom of expression starts at a young age. It’s important that the arts is considered a priority in the education of young people and it’s important in the democracy to have young people think that being an artist is a feasible way to make a living.”
Mr. Jonah graduated from high school this past January, a semester early, to focus all of his time and effort on expanding his United Imagination project. Right now the focus of his attention lies on the upcoming show, but he is already planning out his future and how he can use his art to most effectively impact the community.
“Right now I’m just really focused on this gallery show but I’m really hoping to expand this United Imagination project and have possibly more shows,” he said. “I already have this huge demand of organizations who are interested in acquiring these interactive art installations.”
Ille Arts in Amagansett will show “Eleven Under Thirty” from April 8 through May 1, with an opening reception on Saturday, April 8, from 5 to 8 p.m. Learn more about Adam Jonah’s story and his artwork on his website, froeg.com.
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