In high school, Charles first became interested in graphic design. As a first-generation college student, he attended community college at CCBC where he received his AA and transferred to UMBC to pursue a degree in graphic design. At UMBC he began to explore his passion for self-expression through art. He focused on printmaking and posters; during his junior and senior year he learned about social design - artwork, he says, thatsaid, “directly references society at hand.”
After graduation in 2014 he applied to many graduate school programs and residencies with a portfolio from his undergraduate work. He then attended Parsons School of Design in New York City where he was inspired after visiting the many museums in the city - including the Guggenheim, Whitney, New, and Queens Museum. While in New York, Charles was first exposed to artists of color in world-renowned museums. Charles realized that, “[he] could be a person of color and still be successful in art.” At this time, Michael Brown had just been killed at the hands of police in Ferguson, MO, and Charles felt a need to take time off school.
He later decided to go back to college and finish his master’s degree at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (which he completed last year). After graduation, he applied to many residencies and was offered a spot at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore. While he wanted to stay in Philadelphia, he came back to Baltimore to figure out his next steps and start the residency position. At the Creative Alliance, he has been able to collaborate with other artists among different disciplines in a space where he lives, works, and cultivates new ideas.
Moving forward, Charles’ focus is on what is occurring in society right now - the pandemic, and the racial revolution in the nation and the world. As an artist he feels he can continue to create because work for him comes so naturally. He lives in the moment and doesn’t try to predict the future - since there are so many unexpected events. This fall, he is teaching art courses at MICA and Stevenson University where his goal is to be open and honest with his students.
As for advice to current or upcoming college students Charles says to be, “tender with yourself... it’s okay for you to be lost, scared or fearful... lean into it and stick your head up and see what's happening. Love yourself, love on yourself - find ways of loving yourself that don't require someone else's acknowledgement.” Charles believes in constant growth as part of the process, that you will always be figuring out who you are - that the learning never stops. He encourages you to appreciate where you are in your life and to celebrate the little thing.. If we are always working for the next biggest thing, we can never enjoy our accomplishments.
To learn more about his work, please check out his website here.
Transcribed and written by:
Ava Kemp, Student Ambassador
Goucher College 22'