Richard Hutchins’ life has not been easy. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, he grew up at Techwood Homes, one of the first federal public housing projects in the United States, before moving to Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, he finally found an art studio where he could act on a passion for painting he had had since he was 6 years old. But he fought there too, later landing in a Los Angeles County jail.
In prison, Hutchins spent his days painting portraits on envelopes, experimenting with what was available to him – toothpaste, Kool-Aid and the colorful dye coating from Skittles and M & Ms – and using a paintbrush made in from his plucked beard hair.
By the time he was released, Hutchins had lost his studio to a fire and he became homeless. He walked the streets and lived on the beaches before ending up in homeless shelters on Skid Row.
Artist Richard Hutchins, with Charlie Rocket, at an exhibition of his art at the Sofitel Los Angeles in June. Credit: Robin L Marshall / Getty Images
Hutchins had been living on Skid Row for six years when, last Easter Sunday, he met Charlie “Rocket” Jabaley, the former manager of rapper 2Chainz, at a grocery store in Los Angeles. Since then, Jabaley and his company, the Dream Machine, have helped transform the life of Hutchins.
When asked what his dream was, Hutchins replied: “My dream is to one day enter a museum and see one of my paintings hanging on the wall.
After an initial conversation, Jabaley took him to an art store and bought $ 2,000 worth of supplies to have him painted again. Next, Jabaley and his team set up a website for Hutchins to sell his work, including the 250 envelopes he painted in prison. (Some of these envelopes were then donated to institutions, including the UC Santa Barbara Library.)
Richard Hutchins’ painting “Blue Lennon”. Credit: Richard hutchins
Four hours after the website went live, Jabaley and his team had sold $ 50,000 worth of artwork. Jabaley then organized an exhibition for Hutchins at the Sofitel Los Angeles hotel in Beverly Hills, where hundreds of people showed up. Hutchins sold even more paintings that night, including one for $ 23,000.
To date, Hutchins has earned over $ 200,000 from art sales, with notable buyers including Oprah Winfrey, 2Chainz, Steve Harvey and Will Smith.
Jabaley launched the Dream Machine to help others achieve their wildest ambitions. “This is what I think is the new era of philanthropy,” he told CNN.
Richard at the Sofitel Los Angeles with his Jimi Hendrix-inspired work, “Acid Head”. Credit: Courtesy of Aiden White / Rubenstein Public Relations
Now that Hutchins is off the streets, he plans to help Dream Machine in its mission wherever he can. But, he said, his “destiny” now is “to return to Skid Row”.
“I remember the night I slept in a good, firm bed. It was a wonderful experience,” he said. “But I’m not comfortable until everyone around me is comfortable, which means the people I left behind.”
Hutchins plans to pay his good fortune up front: “I’m not sitting around spending money. I’m trying to make things happen, I’m going to make things happen.”
Richard at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills. Credit: Courtesy of Aiden White / Rubenstein Public Relations
The night after his exhibition at the Sofitel, Hutchins went to Skid Row and gave all the money in his pockets to people living on the streets, he said. In the future, he hopes to start a fundraiser for breast cancer research in honor of his late mother and create a foundation in her name that will help clean up Skid Row and get the children to school.
“The money that we have raised and continue to raise, I will use it… to at least try to make the world a little better to live in – especially on Skid Row.”