Adeshola Makinde said his experience as a Black student in the mostly white Hampshire High School had its challenges.
“It really took me learning my history and all that Black people have accomplished to really make me understand that there was more to this world than what I had gone through while at Hampshire High School,” Makinde said in an email.
Now a self-taught artist, Makinde will return to Hampshire High on Thursday to donate one of his mixed-media creations, titled “Liberated Black Male.” The piece features images of Allen Iverson, an NBA player who inspired Makinde as a teen.
“He inspired me to always be myself and that it’s OK to be different from what you see in the mainstream,” Makinde said.
“I want to give a kid like me hope that it’s OK to be different and that there’s power in that,” said Makinde, whose work recently was featured in a solo exhibition at the Stoney Island Arts Bank in Chicago.
As a student at Hampshire, Makinde was quiet and creative, said Laura LaRue, his former art teacher.
LaRue, who still teaches art at Hampshire, said she reconnected with Makinde after noticing an announcement about an art show featuring his work. It was during those conversations that Makinde offered to donate one of his creations.
The work will be displayed near the high school’s library, LaRue said.
“We wanted it in a space where a lot of students could walk by and see it,” she said.
Makinde also will be speaking to LaRue’s art students on Thursday. The 31-year-old artist will share his experiences along the winding “path to becoming a fine artist.”
“What they see today isn’t how it began, and I had to pivot and move more intentionally to achieve the things I’ve achieved in my short art career,” said Makinde, who now lives in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
For minority students of color, he encourages them to learn about their heritage.
“Seek out as much true knowledge about your people as you can outside of those four walls,” he said.
In addition to the solo exhibition featuring his collage art, Makinde’s work has been featured in public art projects.
For one of his public art projects, Makinde used billboards to feature lesser known quotes from notable Black figures, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Coretta Scott King, Fred Hampton and Angela Davis.
In another project, Makinde used billboards in 22 cities to call for an end to police brutality.