PALM BEACH, Fla. — As Siena Barefoot signed the back of her painting to its new owner, onlookers cheered at Caviler Galleries on Palm Beach.
Barefoot, an art student at Dreyfoos School of the Arts, just sold this painting for $500 to an internationally renowned artist Guy Stanley Philoche.
"This is so heartwarming," said Erica Prince, Barefoot's art instructor.
Barefoot is a superfan of Philoche's Instagram page, "You can tell when it's his art. He always has all this texture and I think it's really cool. He has different collections, and they all have different meanings, all have different purposes and they are all unique," she said.
So when her godmother prompted Siena to show Guy one of her paintings, "[He talked] about the composition and comment on it and I thought that was really cool," she said.
Philoche said, "And I was like, 'Hey, I would love to buy it and add it to my collection.' And she just looked at her mom and [said] 'I don't know [what to do]," laughed Philoche.
Philoche sold-out a show at the New York City Caviler Galleries and was going to buy himself a $15,000 Rolex watch to celebrate until he had a thought, "This whisper in my head said, 'Now is not the time,'" remembered Philoche.
Instead, he started buying other unemployed artists' work when the coronavirus pandemic started.
"They were truly scared, you know," said Philoche, "If I ever made it as an artist [every time I] sell a painting, I buy a painting $70,000 later, I'm still going."
Barefoot's art teacher is proud of her student's accomplishments and feels like validations like this one will help young artists have richer futures by demonstrating to students, "I see you, you're doing your thing," said Prince, "As Toni Morrison once said, she said, 'If you're free, you have to set someone else free.' And I think that's kind of what Guy is doing."
Philoche sold two pieces on his trip to South Florida, so he bought two other artists' work including Clifton Wedun's from North Palm Beach.
Philoche, a Haitian immigrant taught himself English by watching Saturday morning cartoons. He is currently selling a series at Caviler Galleries featuring the Peanuts, which focuses on social justice called "rEVOLution."
"The best way to explain 'rEVOLution' is to have the most beloved dog, Snoopy... talk about social change," said Philoche.
"Now that I have a seat at the table I have to open doors for people. There's enough room for everybody. There really is," said Philoche.