Ryan Reyes was a high school freshman with hopes and dreams of becoming a professional baseball and basketball player up until he became diagnosed with Stage 3 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2013. Tumors were forming next to his heart, liver, and spleen. While undergoing chemotherapy, he found hope and comfort in a new hobby: making art.
Ryan first came in contact with A Free Bird’s Fight Free program through a middle school teacher. From there, he was introduced to art tutor, Angela Lee. Under Angela’s guidance, Ryan became inspired by graffiti art. Angela sent AFB a list of all the supplies needed to fuel Ryan’s passion and he received a package of donated brushes, paint, sponges, and practice canvases. Two months into Ryan’s tutoring, AFB learned that he had been declared cancer-free and that his first big graffiti project was nearly complete.
Ryan’s incredible story and triumph in both fighting cancer and discovering his passion was featured in a News 12 Brooklyn story in April 2015. To further inspire great things from Ryan, AFB organized a collaboration with Ryan and Ramiro Davaro Comas, an established street artist whose work spans across Brooklyn and international shows as well. With street art as their muse, Ryan and Ramiro joined forces to created a piece together.
In December 2015, AFB collaborated with Call for Chelsea, a venue located at the heart of NYC’s gallery scene, to organize Ryan’s first show. Ryan’s debut was a tremendous success. He met prominent artists from all around the world and his piece “Before and After” sold immediately for more than $1,000 to a painter living on New York’s Upper East Side. This piece tells the story of a teenage boy with big hopes and dreams, struggling with a malevolent disease and overcoming it through tremendous passion and creativity.
Ryan’s second piece “Untouched,” sold as well and enabled him to pursue his artistic education. Now 16, Ryan is enrolled at the prestigious NYC’s High School of Art and Design, where he received a three-year scholarship from Pratt Institute. His art has also been featured on White Cloud’s tissue boxes following his first place win in the company’s Annual Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ Tissue Box Contest. Proceeds from the contest went to the hospital where Ryan was treated. He continues to create the very art that has healed him and provided him solace. He is currently working on more art in hopes of opening his own gala to display his gifts.