Charles Bell, 17, is a mother’s dream. Energetic, respectful, hard working and artistic.
“I’m proud of him,” Cynthia Bell said. “He’s independent. He’s entrepreneurial. His art is amazing.”
A junior at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan, Bell designs t-shirts and shoes.
He also paints murals and engineers hip-hop beats. He and his family live on Timpson Place. Bell recently won a $500 Yankees Youth Leadership Award.
“It’s not like mother and son with us,” Bell said.
“We’re best friends. We have special handshakes. I stay home, stay safe and practice drawing.”
Bell has always enjoyed art. When he was five years old, strangers would ogle his work, protesting, “He couldn’t have done this!”
Last year, Bell was surfing the Internet for t-shirt designs. An original image popped into his head – a stylish skeleton.
“I drew it and it looked nice,” Bell said. “I showed it around. Everyone at school thought it was hot.”
He plans to launch a clothing line around the design. Bell has drawn customized skeletons for his friends.
“One of my friends is retro so I drew the skeleton with a flattop and an Africa necklace,” he said.
Annette DeJesus met Bell at a Hope of the Crib benefit. Hope of the Crib is a Bronx non-profit organization.
“He attracted my attention because he was a sweet, talented young man,” DeJesus said. “He had some paintings and sneakers.”
DeJesus asked Bell to craft a mural for 2311 Southern Boulevard’s newly renovated community garden. Bell and his grandfather, a Long Island painter, obliged.
The mural is baby blue, white, yellow, orange and green. Two angels grip a ribbon. The reads, “Unity in the Community.” According to Bell, the garden is “a place that really calms you down.”
Most days after school, Bell stops by City Kids, a youth foundation in Manhattan with a music studio. Pharrell Williams and Kanye West are two beat-makers who inspire Bell.
“My beats are calm, with a flow like you hear on the radio,” Bell said. “My favorite beats are Kanye West’s The Good Life and Jesus Walks.”
Bell plans to open his own business soon. He admires Williams’ commercial acumen and the clothing/toy franchise KidRobot.
Until then, he’ll champion neighborhood causes.
“There are a lot of dangers outside,” he said. “Being active in the community keeps you safe.”
Amari Gay, a family friend, expects great things from Bell.
“He’s very talented,” Gay said. “His mother doesn’t have to worry about him hanging with the wrong crowd.”
Melissa Lebron runs Hope of the Crib. She nominated Bell for the award.
“I’m fond of Charles,” Lebron said. “With so much gang activity in our schools, positive kids like him are rare.”