For the student arts

Edwin J. Viera, Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
·3 min read

Mar. 13—Artist Fritz Proctor IV, a former Niagara Falls native currently living in Boston, started a GoFundMe with the goal of raising $10,000 to donate to the Niagara Falls City School District for art supplies. As of Friday, the effort had raised $1,730.

Proctor is a product of the Niagara Falls City School District, where he learned to appreciate art. He recalled constantly hearing about the funding for art classes and talking with art teachers about how it's hard for them to do anything with students, given limited funds. During the pandemic, he's found great popularity on TikTok, from his color mixing videos, which he felt was a platform to get his message out. But Proctor said, even without his TikTok fame, he would have done this fundraiser anyway.

"I'd try to find a way to do it, but that was the main reason because I knew I could achieve something with an audience of 3.5 million people," he said. "That was one of the main reasons. I know there's a lot of other young people that follow me on there and older people and teachers, and people in the arts that know how the arts is usually the first thing to go when budgets get low. I just wanted to get the word out there about that; let other teacher's know that there's people that care and show kids art is an opportunity. They can have a life in art if they want to put the work into it."

Proctor said he wants to give back to ensure the next generation of Niagara Falls art students can enjoy that same career he's had. He often quotes Robert Lynch, his art teacher at Niagara Falls High School, who told Proctor art is not just a hobby, it's a lifestyle. Proctor said his goal for the fundraiser will go beyond just buying art supplies. Rather, he hopes to additionally fund field trips for students that can't afford to go on cultural fields trips normally.

When he was a student in Niagara Falls, Proctor said he went to New York City on a school trip. Seeing this inspired him to go beyond the small world he knew then. In raising this money will hopefully allow other students to experience this as well. Along with making his TikTok videos, Proctor has found some other ways to remain creative during the pandemic.

"I have been painting through the pandemic so I just tried to change my perspective on what it is I want to look at. I spend a lot of time away from people in nature, working in nature. There's no people at all. And then a lot of time I was obviously in the studio painting by myself and thinking about what I could do with all this extra time we have to ourselves. I started making those videos and it kept me pretty busy through the pandemic. Always something to do, but just staying creative by talking to other people, FaceTiming friends, watching movies. Everything everyone else is doing."

Originally, Proctor got the idea for doing his TikTok videos from his wife seeing him mix certain colors to create one unique color, whether it has been Buffalo Bills Blue or one of many color swatches found at Home Depot. As he would make a painting, he placed the swatch or model color against the canvas, and would make that color. He captured the therapeutic quality of this on video and became a TikTok sensation.

At the start of the pandemic, he just moved from Buffalo to Boston and found himself working with DoorDash and Instacart. Most of the jobs he had lined up were set aside because of the pandemic, but keeping a positive mindset has gotten him through the last year. In being able to provide students with art supplies, Proctor is hoping this fundraiser will provides students with a colorful future in art.