With every intentional pen stroke, Henry Hess adds another piece to his mural dedicated to Franklinton and the community that helped shape his life and career.
Art isn’t anything new to Henry. His parents, Amy and Tom Hess, recall fond memories of him rummaging through their house for any materials he could use to create. Henry’s passion for art was so evident that his parents rented a studio in 2014 for their then-14-year-old to use during his summer break from school.
“This was something we never saw coming,” explained Amy. “We thought we would be done [with the studio] by the time Henry started back to school. Five years later, and here we are.”
Henry’s plate has always been nothing short of full; balancing the responsibilities of a teenager while also tending to his budding art career. Henry also has a unique perspective, as he was born with autism. Patterns, structure and routines are themes Henry relies on to function optimally in his daily life, but the Franklinton-based studio has played a monumental role in advancing not only his professional growth, but also his personal development. The art-filled environment, along with his role models and friends, have enabled Henry to be more adaptable. According to Tom, “when Henry’s in his studio, he’s free.”
The same summer Henry had his first studio, another pivotal aspect of his career unfolded: meeting his mentor, Alicia Jean (AJ) Vanderelli, Curator and Founder of The Vanderelli Room located at 218 McDowell Street, and overall staple in the Franklinton community. AJ formed an instant bond with the blooming artist and believed so deeply in his ability and artistic potential that she offered Henry his first solo exhibit at age 14. With the full support of his parents, the Hesses arrived with seven bags full of Henry’s art work, and the rest is history.