Roger Whiting is a visual artist specializing in large-scale murals, illustrations, and mosaics. His ability to bring together a community of youth to produce celebrated murals is remarkable. Whiting is an exceptional individual who is committed to share his passion with his students without pecuniary interest—discernable of the gift economy. He tells us that while a student at Rhode Island School of Design, Whiting took an art education course where he was asked to observe a middle school art classroom. During observation he noticed that many of the students were excited about expressing themselves through art, so Whiting offered to come work with the students for free to paint a mural for the art room. The project was fun and rewarding, so Whiting continued to seek out opportunities to teach. After finding that the public school model did not allow him sufficient self-expression as an artist, Whiting decided to develop a career as an independent teaching artist.
Caring about his students, in fall of 2013, Whiting was invited to his hometown of Phoenix to paint a 12 by 85-foot mural of history for the new campus of a charter school for the homeless that was opening that year. Armed with a sketch and a van full of ladders and paint, Whiting drove from his current home of Salt Lake County, Utah. He hired a crew of mostly former students from a high school where he had taught five years previous to help with the endeavor. In three weeks, they accomplished the massive task, and developed stronger friendships with each other along the way.
Roger Whiting is an example of talent and kindness. The world of art can be a complicated place, ingrained in monetary gains, but artists like Whiting can reduce the art world into a ‘gift.’