founder, prime mover/initiator of the Heart of Chaos and the young man
who was the inspiration for creating Catalyst for Youth, emerging artist
Curtis Manzano, (a former special education student and a high at-risk
young man due to long term and severe neglect and abuse)
The photograph on the right features Curtis on the cover of Earthlight magazine. His artwork appeared inside along with a featured article about at-risk youth by Michael Meade).
Curtis was mentored by Executive Director and founder of Catalyst, Joanne Hobbs. Curtis was a student in her high school computer graphics class. In his senior year, having been told that he would not graduate since he had missed too many classes, Curtis went into a crisis mode, dropping out of all of his classes except computer graphics. In this class he produced an extraordinary number of drawings and digitally enhanced paintings in a very short time. Joanne watched as his artistic gift emerged before her eyes.
Curtis had been on his own since his early teens and as a young child he struggled with a mother on drugs and alcohol and no father. Having to work to pay for his food and for a floor or courch to sleep on at a long string of acquaintances, he naturally missed school a great deal, but he never stopped trying to attend. When he was 14 years old, his cousin’s husband put him to work lifting stone statuaries to pay for his room and board. That work hurt his back and he is now under chiropractic care to correct the damage. His worst time, he confesses, is when he had to live in a van for six months. Yet, Curtis has an integrity unexplained by his background and an attraction to the positive that has always served him well at his lowest points. Today he understands he is an artist with considerable people skills and is actively exploring life's options. Catalyst also paid (and supervised the process) for Curtis to be home schooled in a nationally recognized home school high school with a regional office in Los Angeles. He graduated and obtained his high school diploma in June, 2003.
In the past few years Curtis, who got his first taste of success in Hobbs' computer art class when he learned an image editing program called Photoshop, became a Photoshop teaching assistant at UCSC extension for adults in Cupertino, CA, He assisted Joanne Hobbs when she taught a “Photoshop Basics weekend” in the winter and fall terms and an intermediate Photoshop class in the spring. Together they are investigating how he might teach Photoshop by himself to other young people in one or more of the many alternative programs in the county and/or to seniors.
In addition to becoming a trainer to support himself, Curtis who is a gifted artist, has been displaying and selling his work since the winter of 2001.
The photograph to the left is a drawing, digitally enhanced in Photoshop called "Awakening. It was a finalist in a Canadian juried competition called Mythic Quest.
Curtis was also given an opportunity to exhibit his art in the San Jose supported Phantom Gallery project (see Two Fish Design under mentoring) that turns empty store fronts into art exhibits. In fact Curtis’ work was on exhibit for two months (see photographs below of the 13 hour–two day airbrush painting he did on the store front board before setting up two window displays filled with his artwork.
Also noteworthy was the invitation to Curtis by author, poet, and at risk youth advocate/workshop leader Luis Rodriguez to present his work at a solo exhibit at Tia ChuCha cafe and gallery in Sylmar, California, during the month of January and February 2002—which he did (see enclosed flyer). The reception for this event was held on January 4, 2003 and a video tape of Curtis’ talk that afternoon is available for review. He also had another solo exhibit in Watts, CA, scheduled for April and May, 2003 at the Community for Self Determination Institute where he did a live airbrush painting at the reception, a group exhibit at Cafe Matisse in downtown San Jose that summer and a solo exhibit at the American Indian Resource Center.
After note: From March, 2005 to November, 2005, Curtis worked as a conservation team leader in an Americorps organization in Alaska. He passed his emergency medical response training and took lots of photos, inspired by the breathtaking Alaskan landscape. He returned to San Jose in December 2005 and is currently working on a new body of images.
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