Gay Desert Guide Man Crush on this Monday, February 21st is artist, community advocate and ally, Tysen Knight. Tysen took a few minutes from his busy schedule Saturday to share with us all the great things he’s been up to, particularly during the last 12 month, but also when it all began. Here is a bit of what he shared with us.
Starting around age 9, Tysen remembers coloring books being an early spark of inspiration. Instead of coloring inside the lines provided in the coloring books, he began drawing the lines outside coloring books entirely. This is when he began to discover his talent for art.
Having lived in New Jersey with friends and family in New York, Tysen had the benefit of a regional connection to iconic street art by artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Their art, along with that of Andy Warhol and others, caught Tysen’s attention partly because of their use of bold primary colors. A style that is recognizable in Tysen’s artwork today.
Fast forward to 2014, Tysen was living at Roy’s Desert Resource Center (which closed its doors in 2019) when he began working on the documentary film, The Art of the Hustle: Homeless Street Artist, documenting the challenges he and two other artists faced from the streets. It was the recognition from this documentary – which was screened as an Official Selection of the American Documentary And Animation Film Festival here in Palm Springs, as well as film festivals in France, Oregon, and Impact DOCS in 2018 – that introduced Palm Springs and the world to Tysen’s art.
Tysen’s art installations and murals can be seen throughout Palm Springs as well as at showings at galleries as far away as Miami. In addition to these successes, Tysen pays it forward in a number of ways. Tysen is very active as a mentor with Cielo Vista Charter Mentoring Group – mentoring 3rd-5th grade students, Boys Arts Mentoring (BAM) Program with Palm Springs Unified School District, and Boys & Girls Club of Palm Springs. In 2020, he was named Artist Educator-in-Residence for Palm Springs Art Museum’s Pop Up Studio, providing workshops for students and adults alike seeking an “informative, interactive, and inspiring” creative experience with the artist.
Tysen also manages the Street Bench Art Program – a collaborative project between Main Street Palm Springs and Palm Springs Public Arts Commission. Through the program, several artists have painted existing street benches throughout uptown and downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Convention Center, and Palm Springs International Airport. That’s approximately 100 benches, first piloted by Tysen Knight in 2019 with 6 icons: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Judy Garland, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Frida Kahlo, and Lucille Ball. The Street Art Bench Program is winding down now. Palm Springs Public Arts Commission will now give focus to the electrical boxes throughout town, plus window art activations, one of which is underway at the Skylark resort on the north end of town.
#BeInspired is the hashtag handle you’ll read throughout Tysen’s social media. By bringing art to where the people are goes a long way in helping us to be inspired. A lot of folks who have been observing the shelter in place ordinances due to COVID for nearly a year will be in for a great gift when they return to the center of commerce activity in Palm Springs. Uptown, downtown, and the airport are all now adorned with colorful artwork that wasn’t there a year ago, reminding us to be inspired.
When asked about the benches, Chair of the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission, Ann Sheffer, said, “We couldn’t have done it without Tysen — he took the artists to the paint store, helped them with designs, and then sealed the benches.” Ann went on to say, “He’s like the Pied Piper, leading artists all over the City!”
We are proud to recognize this leader, ally, and friend. Congratulations, Tysen Knight!