A wise teacher in high school once told me “a great life is a free life.”

At the time I didn’t really understand him. To be honest, I thought he was just talking about graduation, but as I grew up and began my own adventures into adulthood, it clicked. Being “free” from the burdens of others’ expectations is how you find true happiness. For me, that was through art, journalism and fashion. 

Earlier this year I teamed up with local business owner and tattoo artist Micah Harold, 42, to create an online series profiling graduating high school seniors in our area.

Instead of focusing on academics, I chose to look at their artistic backgrounds. Whether dance, music, acting, technology or the like, I worked with teachers, principals and counselors to select one student to represent their high school.

“I was raised to be a fine artist,” said Harold, who curated his first art exhibit at age 17 at the Turner Art Center at Centenary College. He’s always had a love for tattoos and eventually shifted gears as an artist, opening Red Handed Tattoo Parlor six years ago this month. He saw the opportunity to work with SB Magazine as a means of paying it forward.

“Tattoos have been real good to me, and I want to pass that on,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be tattoos – I just want to pave a road here in Shreveport-Bossier City for upcoming artists, musicians, thespians…to let them know they shouldn’t be afraid to be as weird as they want to be.”

Over the course of four months, I met, photographed and interviewed 14 students from across the area. Some of them were trained 2-D artists and others were just finding their path. One student I met had never been given the opportunity to talk about his music. 

The one thing they all shared: passion.

Harold said his goal from partnering with SB Magazine on this online experience was not only to shine light on the youth in northwest Louisiana but also to give them the confidence they need to explore more.

“(My hard work ethic) was born out of pain and fear that I would be unsuccessful, and everyone would see me fall on my face,” he said. “If I had only known at 17 that it was OK to be me and just forget what everyone else said — that’s my biggest piece of advice I can give. Just don’t hold back. If you’re afraid to do something, that means you’re supposed to do it.”

Harold has a long history of volunteering with youth arts in Shreveport and Bossier City including his work with the Renzi Education and Art Center, the Robinson Film Center, Shreveport Regional Arts Council and artspace, as well as solo artists, entrepreneurs and the like. 

While he may have grown up poor in the Cedar Grove neighborhood in Shreveport, he said he’s lead an unconventionally privileged life due to the teachers he had along the way.

“As a 14-year-old boy, my dad took me to an after party at Bruce Allen’s. I met Allen Ginsberg and the drummer of The Doors before I turned 15,” he said. “I was exposed to all the right things, seeing all the museums. I was surrounded by academia. Now I can give that to those kids and to anyone who wants it. It’s a remarkable feeling.”

Hats off to the students from our SB Art Junior graduating class — we can’t wait to see how far you go.

You can read about each student featured in SB Art Junior 2018 here.