Johnny Collins, known as Radio The Artist, is using his unique art to reach out to others.
Collins, 24, who takes his moniker from his high school nickname, “Radio,” lives in Kernersville.
His art, with its bold lines and bright colors, mixes numerous influences, including pop art and graffiti, to create unique characters and images.
“Art for me is a way to express myself, but also to get my mind off of several things,” he said.
Art is more than just Collins’ career; he wants to use it to connect to young people and the communities he works in.
“Art is a good way of connecting with people,” said Collins, who has been drawing since he was four.
He started creating his own style and characters when he was in high school, but put his art aside to focus on college. But after graduating from Forsyth Technical Community College with a degree in digital effects and animation, he couldn’t find a job in the field. Rather than be discouraged, Collins decided to embrace his art again. He uses tools like markers, pastel sticks and crayons to rapidly churn out pieces whenever inspiration hits.
After one of his pieces was displayed at a downtown gallery, Collins staged his first solo exhibit last summer at Ma’ati Spa during a First Friday Gallery Hop. Collins’ art was displayed inside and outside of the Main Street spa. His friend, Isaiah Fletcher, was there to help.
“They came in, and they stood there and they stared and the looks on their faces was like ‘Wow, holy crap, where is this guy from?,’” Fletcher, who has known Collins since high school, said about the reaction of Gallery Hop-goers.
The show garnered Collins lots of local fans, and he has gained a national and international following by displaying his work on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He has since had other exhibits and sold numerous pieces.
Skateboard stickers featuring his work are sold at the K’Vegas Skate Shop in Kernersville. They feature several of Collins’ characters, including “Cool Man,” “Radio Dog” and his signature image, “Square Dude.” He hopes to have t-shirts featuring his art in the shop some day.
In January, he began volunteering at Petree Elementary School. Students were curious about the new visitor the first time he came to the cafeteria, so he introduced himself by opening his art binder. His images caused the kids to swarm around him. They too became fans. Since the students are always asking him to do sketches or for autographs, Collins decided to give his drawings away to kids as rewards for good work and deeds. He has also created an eye-catching mural that adorns a hallway at the school.
In addition, Collins, who is Hispanic, has had great success mentoring a group of Hispanic kids.
“I love mentoring because I feel like I’m doing something to impact my generation … I wish more kids my age would be that helpful,” said Collins, who is also mentoring kids in the LaDeara Crest Estates community this summer.
Collins is preparing to move his work into a studio on Washington Street in High Point. A grand opening event, which he has dubbed, “Radio Tactical Urbanism,” will mark the move in the near future.
He hopes the opening – which will feature music, food and, of course, art – will be the first in a series of ways he’ll engage the community around his studio.
“Being an artist is not me having art in a gallery. Art for me is a way for me to connect with people outside of canvas, outside of whatever medium we do,” said Collins. “We want to take that talent and bridge the gap.”
Collins’ next exhibit will be on June 27 from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh. Tickets can be purchased online at www.rawartists.org/radiotheartist. To see more of Collins’ work or to contact him, visit his Facebook page, facebook.com/RADIOTHEARTIST.