Smocks & Jocks offers a new take on the art of athleticism with art made by and featuring current and former NFL players. This program is the Professional Athlete Foundation’s premiere fundraising event and helps support athletes in transition from the game. Andy talks with Andre Collins, former Washington Redskin and current Executive Director of the Professional Athletes Foundation, and Aaron Maybin, former New York Jet, artist and activist.
Andre explains that one of the PAF’s missions is to uncover who players are off the field.
“I started to discover that there were lots of players out there painting, doing sculpture, and taking pictures. It was just a nice opportunity for us” Andre said. “That very first year, the art ranged from fine art to folk art. Over the years, the art has really progressed to being fine art. I think it’s one of the premier shows in the country today.”
Aaron has participated in Smocks & Jocks for many years and explains that he was an artist before he was an athlete. Aaron attended art school before declaring for the NFL draft and describes the arts as an outlet and a resource during his years in the league.
“The way I look at it, art is largely responsible for saving my life. As a kid, I was an artist before I could form words and speak. I was running around the house stealing Reynolds Wrap, aluminum foil, anything that was malleable, that I could create something out of anything that I could paint with or draw with. That was just me,” Aaron said. “In the first few years of my first few years in the league, it was a unique opportunity for me to spread my wings as an artist as well, because I wasn’t necessarily creating work because of a need to have to sell it for a lot for my livelihood.”
“Most people never make that connection between athletics and the arts. People see them as polar opposites of one another, but so many of us, as athletes, have used art as our outlet and our resource, for much of our lives. I think that this event does a great job of highlighting that, and encouraging other people to leave their own comfort zones and see what kind of work they can create,” Aaron said.
“There’s a little bit of an artist in all of us athletes. We do have to react, we do have to create on the field, which is kind of like a canvas,” Andre said. “I’m just thrilled to have had Aaron in the show all these years, he’s really helped us take the show to another level. After 16 years, it really is one of the signature events for the NFLPA at the Super Bowl.”
In addition to contributing artwork to Smocks & Jocks Aaron founded Project Mayhem to help underprivileged and at risk youth in the Baltimore City area where he grew up.
“As I got older, I realized what I was getting from art. After my Mom passed away, I started a lifelong battle with depression and anxiety. Art was the first space that I ever had that allowed me to escape that and allowed me to express what I was feeling,” Aaron said. “In a city like Baltimore, a lot of our kids don’t grow up learning how to articulate our emotions, or how to heal or how to process trauma, we just learned how to bottle it up and keep moving. At some point, that becomes destructive, at some point, that becomes a detriment to your development as a whole human being.”
“A year before I left school and to declare for the NFL draft, Baltimore City had one of the most severe budget cuts that they have ever had in the educational sector. The first thing that all of our schools did was cut the funding to their arts programs. So my rookie year, the first thing that I did was start my foundation. And I went into the schools and started doing workshops and programming, to kind of supplement what those schools weren’t getting.”
In addition to promoting arts and expression, Project Mayhem also highlights black role models like Kobe Bryant. Aaron says one of the first books added to the foundation’s library was the Mamba Mentality.
“Kobe was one of those athletes that really broke the mold. One of the things that I think that the world was really robbed of is we didn’t really get a chance to see Kobe get into his artistic bag,” Aaron said. “When you watch the interviews he’s talking about his approach to fine art. Not even the game of basketball, but to fine art itself, the appreciation and respect that he had for it, the attention to detail that he paid to every project. That’s something that I talk to my kids a lot about.”
Hear Aaron’s memories of unexpectedly meeting Kobe at Penn State and get the full details on Smocks & Jocks on Legends Of Sport. Bidding is open online from Feb.10-17.