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Artists For Humanity commissioned for Ja'Whaun Bentley's My Cause My Cleats

The New England Patriots linebacker was struck by a ProBlak mural in the Rose Kennedy Greenway last spring. For the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats initiative, the captain got back in touch.

Ja'Whaun Bentley.MCMC.PDC

Patriots captain Ja'Whaun Bentley was put on to Artists For Humanity in the spring.

Upon the start of a massive mural at the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the New England Patriots linebacker met local artist and AFH co-founder Rob "ProBlak" Gibbs. Introduced by a Kraft Group executive, the athlete and artist hit it off, and Bentley got to see the installation come to life over time.

Months after that encounter, Bentley reached back out. Could he commission Artists For Humanity to customize a pair of shoes for the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats initiative?

"I had an opportunity to link up with them again for My Cause, My Cleats," Bentley said of the collaboration. "I want to shine a bigger light on what they're doing. There's a lot of great things."

ProBlak co-founded AFH back in 1991 as a means of employing and training under-resourced teens the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design. He also was the first local artist asked to paint a mural in the iconic Greenway, which connects a few of Boston's major districts.

"He painted a huge mural, right in the center of the city, and it was a picture of his daughter," Bentley said about the depiction of a little girl crouched in front of a boombox, illuminated by a stunning gold background.

"I linked up with Rob to get the backstory on everything that they were doing as far as Artists For Humanity, and just about him in general, like how he came up with the idea of the painting. He broke it down for me. It was a candid picture of his daughter. His team was on scaffolders and that stuff. A lot of those guys who were painting were scared of heights, but for the sake of the mural they were able to suck it up and get it done. Hearing all that it was definitely a group of people that I wanted to have a better connection with."

For designing Bentley's cleats, ProBlak lined him up with Luis Urena, a former AFH student who now serves as a mentor in the organization.

"One thing I made sure to do was to give them the green light," Bentley said of the creative direction. "I don't care about the base color. Do what you feel. You always have to trust the artist."

Urena's inspiration came from the AFH's paint studio, the place where all the magic begins and diamonds in the rough are found, according to Urena.

The base of the show is gray and splattered with paint, just like the sealed cement floor in the studio, and the cleats are accented with the same gleaming gold that caught Bentley's eye at the Greenway. On the heels, a red, white, and blue diamond symbolize a $100 thousand donation to AFH by the Patriots players through their 2021 social justice fund.

"Art can spring up a lot of different questions for you, or could answer a lot of different questions for you," Bentley said. "It's another way to express yourself. It's another language. You can draw it up, and everybody could get something different from it. Just depending on what you're going through, or your perspective. That's what you want with art – for everyone to take what they take from it."

Learn more about Artists For Humanity and the other organizations the Patriots are representing for My Cause, My Cleats.

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