At the 2012 Arts Festival, BC students Dylan Enright (‘12) and Jeff White (‘12) arrived at the Craft Sale with a heaping box of T-shirts to sell. After a few hours, the sea of festival-goers in O’Neill Plaza was peppered with the yellow and white flashes of Rightside shirts. By the second day of the festival, they had sold out completely.
At BC, Jeff majored in Finance and Economics, and Dylan in Economics and Environmental Science. As graduation loomed, they were buried deep in the job search. Even after the offers from big firms rolled in, however, they didn’t feel right.
Jeff and Dylan turned down high-profile jobs in business to open Rightside, a non-profit that prints children’s original artwork on T-shirts, using 100% of the sales to fund school art initiatives. Students at Brighton, MA’s Edison K8 School designed the shirts Rightside sold at the 2012 Festival, and this year’s selection will include designs from the students of six other schools in the area.
“From the outside looking in,” said Dylan and Jeff, “our educations served us well…our parents were ecstatic at the job offers, our teachers proud.” Something was missing, though. They found their calling in creativity.
Jeff had taken a class on Expressionism in the 20th Century that got him thinking about the importance of creativity in education. He learned that “artists like Kandinsky and Munch were eager to distance themselves from their inhibitions in order to paint more like children. Children have an incredible creative capacity, unbound by over-thinking and a fear of being wrong. They paint what they feel, what they imagine.”
Creativity, Jeff and Dylan thought, is a skill nurtured less and less frequently in American schools. While schools acknowledged the importance of math and science, Dylan and Jeff felt that attention to the arts was lacking. Without the “sense of originality and critical thought that an arts education provides,” all the business and technical skills they learned would languish. Successful figures in technology and the sciences, they thought, can only make big impacts in the world by combining their technical prowess with pioneering creativity, with imagination (think Steve Jobs, Meg Whitman, Mark Zuckerberg).
“Despite this, as school budgets are cut as a result of economic recession, arts programs are usually the first to go.” They saw two roadblocks for the arts in schools, “a lack of funding, and a lack of exposure.” They put their heads together to come up with a solution.
Since their sophomore year, entrepreneurship projects had brought Jeff and Dylan together, so it was natural that they joined forces in their mission to bring art back to schools. When they decided to enter the Boston College Venture Competition, a program in which participants pitch business ideas in an effort to win thousands of dollars in start-up costs, Rightside was born.
Rightside started out simply. At Edison K8 in Brighton, MA, “every student received a piece of paper and supplies with instructions to create ‘anything.’ We got back 900 pieces of artwork, two of which we printed.” The first winners were kindergartener Destiny, with her abstract painting, and fourth grader Calvin, with his duck drawing.
With the students’ creations in hand, Dylan and Jeff printed their original artwork on T-shirts. 100% of the proceeds from shirt sales go directly into the school art program from which it came.
For Dylan and Jeff, the shirts work to benefit the schools, not only through sales, but also by increasing awareness support of arts education. “We sell the shirts not just to raise money for art programs in schools—where a lack of funding has led to a detrimental decline in art programs—but also as billboards of the inherent creative powers of children….We sought to harness and showcase this expressive genius.”
For the Arts Festival in April, their goal is to beat their record of 75 shirts sold in 48 hours at last year’s Festival. “We are looking forward once again to showcasing Rightside and the creativity of these kids.”
This year, they hope to continue bringing their program to other schools in the area, “an art class for every child once a week,” and they wouldn’t mind growing Rightside to support themselves and their employees full-time along the way.
Dylan and Jeff’s words of advice for current BC students:
We hope that BC students will be reminded that imagination is as important as accounting, physics, and statistics, and that they will actively foster their creativity every day. Take an art history course, a painting class, or just write haikus in your free time. The right side of the brain is where we will create the next iPhone, the solution to the energy crisis, or cures for cancer. Math, science, and English are pertinent to getting a good job, but creativity will provide you with the tools to innovate and ‘make a dent in the universe,’ as Steve jobs would say.
Rightside will be at the Craft Sale on the Stokes Lawn (outside the Stokes Art Tent) during the BC Arts Festival, Thursday, April 25 – Saturday, April 27, 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM. See current 2013 Arts Festival Schedule.
Contact Rightside to donate.