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Arkansans With Courage: Maurice Taylor

A program in North Little Rock is using art to steer kids down a road to success.
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- A program in North Little Rock is using art to steer kids down a road to success. The project was started by a local leader who found courage in the face of tragedy.

With each stroke, Lyndon Jones drifts away from the worries of a teenager.

"When I do art, it's just like I'm away from reality," Jones said.  For the 18-year-old Jones, the art studio is a sanctuary.

Young minds consumed by art -- it's exactly what North Little Rock alderman Maurice Taylor envisioned when he was looking for a release of his own.

"Eight years ago this July, my son was murdered," Taylor said.

At 18, Taylor's son and a teenage friend were gunned down by another teen. Stricken with grief, this father searched for a positive outlet.

"The whole idea behind Art Connection is to catch the kids that may fall between the cracks," Taylor said.

Started with Taylor's backing, the Art Connection is a studio in North Little Rock that pays teens hourly (minimum wage) and by commission (50 percent) for the art they produce.

"We have extremely high expectations of the youth staff," said executive director Hollie Lewis.  "The whole point of Art Connection is to be able to be introduced to the creative economy."

That means learning to meet deadlines, give presentations and finalize deals.

"I really find myself doing a lot of portrait," said Aundarius Stackhouse, 16, who we found in the digital studio.

Asked what he likes best about working at Art Connection, Stackhouse said, "the people, the opportunities I have to focus on my art work."

As we walked the gallery, we saw the work of artists who've gone on to study at major colleges.

"Some of the work they do is pretty amazing," Taylor said.

Maurice Taylor -- finding courage to shine the light of good on what would otherwise be a dark canvas.

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