The August cover with artwork by Brandon Harris.

Brandon Harris, the artist who made the cover of this month’s paper, has been a pillar of the Youth Spirit Artworks (YSA) community since he joined in February 2012. He paints on a wide variety of subjects—from sports to disability justice to tiny homes on wheels—but his specialty is painting cats. He has completed hundreds of pieces during his time at YSA, including an entire tiny home at the organization’s tiny house village, and grown into an accomplished artist with a distinct personal style.“Brandon’s style is one that is unequivocally his own. His themes are well known and understandable. People recognize his art, and that is the stamp of a true artist,” said Angel Albie Anjos, who worked as the Gallery and Art Sales Coordinator at YSA for two years.

Harris, 32, has experimented with many different types of art making at YSA but his medium of choice is painting. In 2014, Ellen Levin’s cat, Abbey, was very sick, and she asked Harris to paint her picture. Harris completed many designs, and gave Levin many paintings, shirts, and tote bags adorned with different pictures of Abbey.

Brandon at YSA’s art studio, where he has been producing work for 10 years. (Kelly Snider)

“He did a beautiful job,“ Levin said. “It helped me in my sadness of Abbey passing on.”

Harris also has an uncanny ability to make friends and endear himself to people, which makes him an amazing salesperson: he consistently sells more artwork—both his own and that of others—than anyone else on YSA’s sales team. Anjos recalls a time during a YSA gallery opening when someone walked in from off the street, looking for a piece of Harris’ work. 

“Someone came in and said ‘hi I want to purchase a piece by Brandon,’ and then Brandon showed up out of nowhere and was talking to this person and I was like ‘whoa, how did this even happen?’” they remember, laughing. “It’s a thing, it’s definitely a thing.”

Harris has also been an activist and advocate for people with disabilities his entire adult life. With the Ala Costa Center at Berkeley’s Roberts Campus, he has made multiple trips to Washington DC, lobbying and doing advocacy work for the disabled community. His colleagues at YSA describe him as a creative, having an insatiable passion to learn and grow, and being a very loyal friend.

“Brandon Harris is someone who exemplifies for me what it means to truly ‘let one’s light shine’ and not ‘hide one’s light under a barrel,’” said Sally Hindman, Executive Director of YSA, who has known Harris for the last ten years. “His unstoppable drive and passion, his thirst to learn and grow, his endless enthusiasm and zest for life, his sense of humor and love of people, all make Brandon a truly unique and inspiring human being!!”

Tiny House Village
By Brandon Harris

Me, a tiny house manager, sales team leader, Doing Gallery, myself
Work with Pia, Aubry 
I’ve been here a long time, Seven years, Non-profit organization
Used to work at the movie theaters, Sell popcorn, refreshments, ushering 
I do murals, Two on Alcatraz, Three on Tiny House Village, About to do another at the food bank 
I help out senior artist, I help out the community, I help out building a new tiny house village 
Meeting on Saturdays, working at the Tiny homes 
I work with CK, doing leader task 
Meeting at Berkeley City College, Trying to make another village soon 
Helping my friends, they need help
I do budgeting with Eric, I do chair painting 
I can’t read or write, I can do abstract things
I sit here and act like myself 
I sell my art on the side
I have great cats, I love cats 
My mom is Black and my dad is Filipino.

A piece of original artwork by Harris titled “Kung Fu Cats.” (Photo by Hannah Trumbull)
Harris in the act of painting—his medium of choice. (Kelly Snider)
Harris stands in front of the home he painted at YSA’s tiny house village. (Sally Hindman)

Alastair Boone is the Director of Street Spirit.