23-year-old Danny McGinnist Jr. was homeless for 10 years—now his artwork is selling for $15,000.
“Art is like air to me,” he stated. “If I can’t wake up and create that’s like—I might as well be dead.”
McGinnist Jr. said he gravitated to art when he was just four years old. As a child, he took care of his father in St. Louis, Missouri.
“My childhood was really rough,” he explained. “Basically, my father, he has cancer, leukemia cancer. So I grew up kind of taking care of him. And that was maybe for five years, so since I was five until 10.”
He left home at the age of 12 and couch surfed his way through high school. He said he either stayed at a friend’s house or at school, where he said he procured most of his food. He then shared an apartment while attending a local community college but wasn’t able to afford more than one year.
In 2015, he came across an organization called BLK SHP, a collective that supports upcoming artists and innovators. He eventually got involved with the group. In 2017, he met fellow artist Kehinde Wiley, who is known for creating Obama’s presidential portrait. Wiley brought Danny to New York for three days to show him around the city and provide industry insight.
Between his opportunities at BLK SHP and his friendship with Wiley, McGinnist Jr. has been able to sell his pieces for thousands of dollars. He is currently fostering his skills at the San Francisco Art Institute.