Artist Stazzy, 29, from Islington has worked closely with the club for a number of years, and his latest work – a portrait of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – was auctioned at The Arsenal Foundation’s 2019 charity ball. He reveals how the Foundation changed his life and how our work continues to help him help others.
“I grew up on Elthorne Estate and Arsenal have always had a massive presence there.
It’s always felt as if the club has been around, even before they gave us the Dennis Bergkamp pitch on the estate.
“My first involvement beyond supporting the team I love was through the Kicks football sessions. But then some friends took part in Wembley To Soweto, a photography project for underprivileged young people that was supported by The Arsenal Foundation. They knew about my art and told me to show the club my work, which is what led to my first commission. A year later, in 2017, I was on Wembley To Soweto myself, and I haven’t looked back.
“The big breakthrough for me was being commissioned to produce a piece that marked Arsène Wenger’s 20th anniversary at the club. I got to present that to him on the pitch at Emirates Stadium, and then I was at the ball two years ago to produce some live art that was signed by the players and auctioned.
“The big thing for me was that the club never saw my work as ‘fan art’. I was being commissioned to produce work and that changed the way I looked at things, and also the way people approached me. This is not a hobby for me.
“The Arsenal Foundation has helped in other ways, too. I’m co-director of a charity called Ambitious Academy that aims to provide opportunities for young people, and with the Foundation’s support we produced Drawn Out – a short film that looks at the experiences of youngsters on Elthorne Estate with regards to gang culture, violence and crime. It’s had more than three million views on YouTube and now we’re taking it into schools, to educate teachers as well as children.
“All of this – all of the work I’ve been able to do for myself and for others – is the result of the support I’ve had from Arsenal.
“I’ve gone from doing art on the side to being a full-time artist, and I now have a commissioning contract with an art investment group, which is a big next step for me. That support has given me confidence and has taken my life in some pretty crazy directions. Like the Foundation I care for people too, and I’m trying to pass that on through Ambitious Academy and by mentoring people. Arsenal always go above and beyond, and The Arsenal Foundation has helped me to achieve my dreams.”
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