For Lowcountry artist, early sting of discrimination became inspiration

VIDEO: Lowcountry artist felt sting of discrimination at early age

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - You may have seen some of the work of Lowcountry artist Jonathan Green throughout Charleston. But now a local artist is captivating others throughout the Lowcountry and beyond.

With the stroke of a paint brush on what begins as a blank canvas, Green adds passion, depth and brings life to every painting.

He shared a special moment in his life, one of many, as a child during segregation entering his art into a competition.

"Because of the image I drew, I drew two Siamese kittens in a window playing with a ball of yarn with rain on the outside. Now in fifth grade, a composition like that, why would they think I'm African American?" Green says.

Green won the competition.

"Finally, I went to the library and I saw it in the newspaper and they did not give me the prize money because I was black."

It would make all of the sense in the world if this event stifled Green's progress. But being wise beyond his years, it did the very opposite.

"Which I turned into the best opportunity in the world," he remembers. "So I didn't get the money, and I won and you're not going to give it to me?"

This only placed more fire under Green's feet.

"I can do anything. I can succeed and I don't need your blessings," he says.

Being the entrepreneur he has always been, even as a child, Green was no stranger to the "green." So back then, not receiving the prize money wasn't the worst thing in the world.

"Well, five dollars, I made that in a week, so the money wasn't all that much of an issue, if that's what they were quivering about," he says. "I thought, 'Five dollars? Is that all?'"

When most children would want to be among the "cool" group and perhaps play outside all evening, Jonathan wasn't having it. There was an obvious uniqueness about him.

"You know, because I always loved my grandmother. I just wanted to hang out with my grandmother so that involved work," he says.

It turned out to be a wise choice, because that time earned him overwhelming deposits of life lessons.

"I just saw my grandmother as a vessel, as a vessel of all knowledge, of all that I could be, of a reminder of who I came from," Green says.

With this mindset, Green has been an infectious light in the community.

"I think Jonathan Green is part mystical in terms of a 40-year history as a painter that I've not had any other jobs but painting," he says about his own identity. "I've made an unbelievable living lifestyle from it."

He's had his ups and downs just as everyone else and is far from settled in the status quo, so he is always looking for new ways to enhance and promote his gift and assist others along the way.

"It's my opportunity to help other people because I know how to," Green says. "So between helping other people and actually getting the work done so that they can see me as someone that has the opportunity to help, I spend as much time in that studio as I possibly can."

Green promotes the importance of the connection of his grandparents to schools and the community.

"That's why it's so important to have numbers of grandparents in these schools," he says. "My favorite audience is middle school. I love middle school kids."

Green believes cultivating children through the arts and grandparents is the key that's missing.

"With the guidance of bringing more of the arts and cultures into the communities that our communities can be turned around in a matter of a couple of years."

When asked what he hopes his legacy will be, he says he wants to be remembered as a servant.

To learn more about Green's work, visit:

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