Nonprofit puts student art on T-shirts, funds schools

February 1, 2013
By

(Courtesy Photo) Rightside Shirts co-founder Dylan Enright at the Edison K-8 School.

Uninspired by the corporate world, two young Jamaica Plain residents have started Rightside Shirts, a nonprofit that raises money for art programs in public schools.

Rightside goes to a school and has all the students draw any design they want. Rightside picks the best ones, places them on T-shirts and sells them to raise money for that particular school’s art program. The company has been to the John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Mendell elementary schools in JP.

“This is something that we are both so passionate about,” said co-founder Jeff White.

White and co-founder Dylan Enright were both seniors at Boston College last spring when the concept of Rightside Shirts began forming.

White said Rightside evolved from two ideas. One idea stems from an expressionist art class at BC that talked about how some artists channel child-like energy in their work. White said the class made him realize that kids’ artwork is “really special” and attention needs to be paid to it.

The second idea came from a lecture by Ted Robinson on “TED Talks,” where he discussed how schools kill creativity by underfunding arts programs, while placing an emphasis on math and science. “TED Talks” are global conferences shown online where people give lectures about ideas worth spreading.

“Those two ideas came together,” White said in the creation of Rightside.

Last spring, the two co-founders were given the OK to implement their idea at the Edison K-8 School in Brighton, which Enright had been involved with through the Big Brother program. They handed every one of 800 students at the school a piece of paper and told them to draw whatever they wanted.

White and Enright eventually picked two designs from a fourth-grader and kindergartener. They printed out 72 T-shirts, which they sold on campus at a BC arts festival and to friends. The shirts sold out in two days.

“It was an idea we liked,” White said of Rightside, “but that confirmed that it could work.”

White and Enright had jobs offers to become an investment banker and a consultant, respectively, but after going on a road trip across the country during the summer, they decided to focus full-time on Rightside.

“It was something we really believed in,” said White.

Rightside recently expanded to seven schools and has plans to reach out to 20 more schools in and around the city. White said they want to expand to other cities, but will wait until they have overseen their first “big expansion.” Rightside focuses on elementary schools, but White said they do some K-8 schools also.

White said the reaction from parents and children has been “great” and said the students have felt “really empowered” because they have freedom with their drawing.

White gave the following anecdote to illustrate his point: One design picked from the Edison School was of a duck. The drawing appears on the shirt as a yellow duck quaking and is signed by the artist, Calvin. White said Calvin began signing his name as “The Duck” after his design was picked.

For more information about the nonprofit, visit the website rightsideshirts.org, where shirts are also available for sale. White said they are also trying to expand to stores in the city.