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Meet Janel Young

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janel Young.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Janel. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
As a Pittsburgh native I grew up with a love for all things adventurous: reading, traveling, playing sports and finding creativity in every crevice of life. This became the baseline of my adult interests and career journey. I vividly remember Atlanta was my destination the very first time I took a plane by myself around age 12 or 13.

Art was a natural way of expression for me when I was young, and my family made sure I joined art related programs – one of which was a mural project at six years old! My relationship with art became more intentional as my teachers started pointing out my talents around 4th grade. That led me to auditioning for the Creative And Performing Arts middle school in Pittsburgh where I studied visual arts and found my knack for painting and more mural projects. I took advanced art classes throughout high school, where I had to exhibit my works. As much as I loved art, I went on to study Business Marketing at Penn State University by my parents’ persuasion.

After graduation, I moved to NYC to work in public relations as a Digital Content Strategist for five years. In that role I was managing other creatives, like graphic designers, animators, illustrators, and I realized I wanted to be back on the other end of things. I gradually got back into the art scene by doing group shows in the city until I was ready to take the leap to leave Corporate America in 2018. During that first year in the game, I started receiving opportunities to work on mural projects in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx. A year later, I went back to my hometown to install my largest led mural to date and Pittsburgh’s first art basketball court, coined: The Home Court Advantage Project.

I consider myself a traveling artist and currently serve as the Community Artist in Residence at UrbanKind Institute, a Black-owned non-profit. I’m able to utilize visual arts as a communication tool to connect people to equity and justice values and initiatives, execute public art projects and facilitate youth workshops.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Sometimes it’s not about the road not being smooth, it’s that the path is not linear. In my experience, my struggles came with what I felt were heavy, pivotal decisions in the moment: what to study in college, what city to live in, when to quit my job, etc. In retrospect, I realize that my path became much more clear when I trusted my intuition, purpose and heart to lead. I’ve had my share of challenges and obstacles, most of which were internal conflicts, and they all led to growth.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
JY Originals is my visual brand as a painter, muralist and content creator. My mission is to inspire through creativity and play: I expand my world and inspire others to explore their creativity through playful paintings, projects and experiences. My media of choice are acrylic and oils on canvas, spray paint on wood and large scale murals. Generally, I’m known for my use of bright colors, blending and a technique I call “the galaxy effect.”

My most well-known piece of art overall is “The Difference Between You + Me” – a politically charged work depicting police brutality against Black people. This piece has resonated with Black communities around the globe, especially in Brazil and, of course, here in the U.S. Nationally, my Black Girl Magic series that celebrates natural hair is most recognized.

Locally, I’m most known for painting Pittsburgh’s first art basketball court: The Home Court Advantage Project. The City of Pittsburgh awarded me a proclamation, making October 23, “JANEL YOUNG DAY” in the city.

Making my projects and workshops community-first has set me apart. I am especially proud to work with, inspire, teach and learn from Black and Brown youth, and provide representation in my work so that they can see themselves. Having an impact through being myself is truly fulfilling.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My parents, namely my mom, deserve so many flowers! It has been such a privilege to have parents who support my dream, even when the vision wasn’t fully in focus for them. At this point, I call my mom my momager. She assists me with everything outside of painting – packaging, shipping, events, manning vending tables, feeding me on and off the job!

I’m extremely grateful for the President of my residency program, Jamil Bey, who is also a client. He has been a great advocate for me and my work in the community, making sure I’m visible and have a platform.

I also have had the pleasure of being guided by many mentors and teachers at different stages in my art journey. And every single client has helped me get to where I am! I’m continually inspired by my clientele.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ray Carrington, Kenny Griffin, Studio Hayes, T.C. Rodgers

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