Using Art as a Force For Change: A Conversation with Ronald Draper
Last week we (virtually) sat down with artist, educator, and (RED) partner Ronald Draper to discuss how he uses his passion for art and education to foster change.
In addition to owning his own showroom and creating artwork, Draper serves as Lead Art Educator for the Eagle Academy Network, holds a creative leadership position at Harlem Hospital and serves as a creative partner to several other non-profits.
Though Draper only became a (RED) partner recently with the launch of his ENDU(RED) Capsule Collection, he has used his work as a means to mobilize others and convey important messages since his early days as an artist.
As an adult, Draper discovered that he was in the small minority of people who had access to art education throughout their 12 years in New York City public school. “You don't realize that so many other people didn't have art until you talk about how much art you’ve had,” Draper explained. Since coming to this realization about the lack of art education, especially for public schools in Black communities, he has been very intentional with his work to reimagine the educational experience for Black students. “My goal has been—and still is—to make sure that I’m using my power to draw attention to these kids,” Draper told us.
Draper activates thousands of young voices every day by creating culturally responsive educational environments. “They always say, ‘Be the person that you needed as a kid,’ and I needed an art mentor as a kid because all of my teachers in high school were people who didn’t look like me,” he explained.
In addition to teaching art and serving as a role model for young minority students, Ronald creates art installations that celebrate Black bodies in Black spaces, such as schools, so that kids will see them every day and feel valued.
As owner and operator of RD Showroom, the first Black-Artist-owned showroom in the Bronx, Draper also works to add to the narrative around artists being in control of their own destiny. As an art educator, he believes that everyone has their own abilities and encourages his students to explore their talents and find their own way of doing things. “Artists come in so many different ways and forms,” he told us. “So many types of art get missed.”
When you shop (RONALD DRAPER)RED, a minimum of 35% of your purchase goes to support the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response and critical HIV/AIDS programs in sub-Saharan Africa.