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Giveback Spotlight: An Amazing Art Centered High School in NYC

by Sheila Patel |

For the month of December, Graffiti Collective will be giving back 10% of its sales to Gotham Professional Arts Academy. You may have guessed that the arts are important to us—just take a look at our packaging - artwork created by Kitsune Jolene and Brooklyn based artists Morgan Winter & Simulation Lab.  Urban art has been my inspiration from the beginning. So when looking for the perfect giveback partner, I was thrilled to find a high school that helps its students create professions out of the creative energy that drives them. I believe the school is cultivating the minds of our future creative leaders. 


The public high school is located in Brooklyn, between the Crown and Prospect Heights neighborhoods. The standard brick building looks like any other school, but from the moment you walk in, you know there’s something special going on here. There’s an upbeat vibe, and everyone seems to be smiling. 


The faculty has demonstrated more passion than I have ever encountered in any school. Principal Rob (as the students call him) is a bright, committed leader with a mission to give these students everything they will need to succeed once they graduate. The staff runs lean and funding is tight, but it doesn’t stop them from bringing the most engaging, thoughtful, empowering experience for their students. Some of the high schoolers travel for hours to be a part of this creative and inclusive community. Every time I walk the halls, I wish I had gone to school there!  


Like the art scene that inspires my company, the faculty at this school breaks every traditional administrative rule. It takes a student-centered approach to their academic and community programming. On my tour of the school, we passed an AP classroom, and the community director told me that their AP classes are inclusive: Any student who is willing to put in the work can sign up. A student’s potential isn’t determined on test scores alone. It’s brilliant. You can see the emphasis on arts everywhere you turn—I spotted a poster for a mural club that meets every Thursday. Something else that stood out to me: Their guidance counselor organizes more than a dozen college visits for every graduating senior. They are truly setting up these kids for success.

Some more facts about the school that impressed me: 

  • They expose students to each of their arts divisions in the ninth grade, and then lets them choose one track to pursue over the course of the remaining three years of high school.
  • In order to provide a rich and diverse experience, the school partners with NYC institutions such as The Whitney Museum; artsy startups such as Etsy; and charities such as New York Cares. 
  • 92% of Gotham’s 2017 graduates enrolled in college  and completed their freshman year.


I’m a fan of Underhill Walls, a model grassroots project in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights. I knew that the founder, Jeff Beler, had been working with public schools, so I DMed him to ask for his help identifying the right school to partner with. He got back to me and spotlighted a few schools doing amazing things—and Gotham felt just right. 


As a first generation Indian American, I experienced the constant conflict of chasing dreams vs. pursuing a career that offers stability. My parents sacrificed so much to give me the best life possible, and they are very practical. It never occurred to me that I could have a career that was both lucrative and creatively fulfilling. So I kept the creative arts as a side hustle, painting in my hotel rooms while traveling for consulting engagements. I volunteered in an urban high school on Friday afternoons, helping the students create hip hop adaptations of Greek myths. At 42 years old I have finally merged my creative passion with my career goals in launching Graffiti Collective. I am thrilled that my company has given me a way to give back to the arts community I love so much.  


It’s time for my big ask: If you’ve been considering trying out our face masks , or gifting your favorite one to a friend, would you consider shopping in December? I would love to give this school as much support as my tiny company can. 


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