A Young Artist Captures the Spirit of Detroit

By Jackie Berg
First printed in Living Well

Brandon FosterEveryone has a story. And, for many Detroit area youth, it begins with seemingly unshakable tenacity.

It is what separates and defines us, according to Brandon Foster, a 22-year old student, artist and native Detroiter.

“Detroit is the birthplace of resilience,” he states. “When people look at us, I want them to see what I see – a community that embodies strength, determination and elasticity. Detroit is not a place we want or need to get out of. It’s a place that we need to give back to.”

And, that spirit of reciprocity is a part of Foster’s life plan to inspire others.

Despite being raised in a foster home since the age of 12 or, perhaps, because of his experience, Foster has learned to bounce back, if not leap, ahead of life’s many obstacles. Where some see trouble, Foster envisions opportunity to fix, grow or learn from life’s peril.

“I did not have parents to guide me or help me deal with my emotions as a teen,” Foster states. “So art, became a critical outlet to express my feelings and work through what I was experiencing.” Art became Foster’s constant and, later, the vehicle powering his remarkable success.

“I like creating art from a blank canvas,” he explains. “At first, it looks like nothing, but as you continue to fill-in the space it becomes clearer.”

And, that, he explains, reflects the story of our lives.

“My father Benjamin Dean and, later, my foster father Mr. Marsialle Arbuckle, taught me that no one can color in your future unless you let them,” according to Foster who is among the 153 children the Arbuckle family has fostered over the last five years through the Step Beyond Program.

“He taught me that everyone has to look inside themselves to discover what it is they really want to do and then to surround themselves with people committed to helping them reach their goals. Although the process led me to the College for Creative Studies, it was through the kindness and support of people, like Mr. Arbuckle, that helped me land a scholarship to support my dreams,” Foster concludes.

Despite his relatively young age, the graphic design student has already caught the attention and support of renown artists like Hubert Massey, who has created some of the largest and most impactful public works of art throughout Detroit.

After winning a local contest to depict the importance of a never-ending quest for knowledge, launched by Starr Detroit Academy, an open-enrollment public charter school, Foster was paired with Massey to create the bronze sculpture he envisioned.

The project – his first in this medium – was daunting, according to Foster.

“I’m not sure that I would have been able to come up to the level of confidence needed to complete the project without Mr. Massey,” states Foster. “He motivated me to find the balance I needed to get through the project, which for me was quite challenging.”

The project, although challenging, was not impossible, according to Massey who admired Brandon’s artistic skills and determination.

“Brandon possesses innate skills, which cannot be taught, as well as those that can, which include
the willingness to listen,” Massey states.

“In order to share your knowledge, you need someone to be receptive to it,” Massey comments. “Our kids are very distracted by technology and other outside influences, so it’s unusual to find a student who is completely focused and eager to absorb whatever he can from whoever he can.”

“He has enviable drive and uncommon enthusiasm and was an absolute pleasure to work with. I likely gained as much, if not more, from the experience than he did.”

The work of Brandon Foster and Hubert Massey will be on permanent display at Starr Detroit Academy from June.