Meet the Painter Opening Up His Home to the Entire Art Community


Michael Aghahowa is an
alumni of Raw Art Works, creating towards a more empathetic world. With his paintings about family dynamics, community, and home, he is spreading an important message about what “home” really means. Read why he creates, and what he created for the HOME Challenge.

When you’re a kid, there’s always one older kid you idolize. You see them as this cool, worry-free, good-at-everything version of yourself that you can only hope to grow up as.

For me, that was the big brother of my friend who would let us tag along to these huge block parties at an organization in our neighborhood called Raw Art Works. I would see kids drawing everywhere. They were all working on making stuff together. Everyone was so happy and cool to each other. I thought it was incredible. I ran up to someone and asked him how to get involved. I wanted to be a part of it.

I started RAW when I was in 8th grade. It was an organization that taught art classes to kids in my hometown of Lynn, MA. At the time, my classes were once a week. I remember being so anxious every week —  

It was like watching a TV show that you really like and having to wait for the next week for more.

RAW is an amazing place. Having a community to create in and around made such a difference for me, creatively. I wouldn’t have gone to college without it. I wouldn’t have believed it was possible for me.

Sharing my work with others forced me to think deeply about what I was doing, and why I was doing it. For a long time I was drawing family portraits. A mom, dad, sister, brother.

But my mom raised me. It was just us

It took a mentor at RAW asking me why I was painting a family that I took the time to really think about what I was working through in my life outside my art.

Over time, thinking critically about my work opened my mind to make me realize why I was making things.

In art, your subconscious shines through in everything you make. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Now, I want to be a mentor for kids who were in my same situation. I want to show what art can do, and how valuable it is to have support from others.

I make things that are personal. I’m putting myself out there. I feel like world peace is a thing that’s almost impossible. It’s something I want to see happen, but also realize I won’t in my lifetime.

So much bad in the world happens because of misunderstanding.

We’re so familiar with where we come from that we project that onto other cultures. We assume everyone has our life story, and become frustrated when they don’t act as we would. That’s not fair — we all have different experiences, homes, cultures, and communities informing our choices.

Today is the last day to submit to RAW’s HOME Challenge, check it out on Project 1324.