As a child James Allen had a fascination for the railroad. He was 6 years old when he began sketching trains. Now, at 23, he is still absorbed by that passion
Allen has never had an art lesson.
"I was drawing because it was just an everyday hobby for me. I started to recognize it the moment that people would acknowledge and say you be very grateful for what you have," said James Allen.
Allen is a participant in Project Onward, a 3 year old program for artists with special needs based at the cultural center.
Rob Lentz is cofounder and program director of the project.
"James is an incredible talent. I think he has a lot of natural ability for someone his age. I think what distinguishes him is that he's really got a lot of passion and drive for what he's doing," said Rob Lentz, co-founder.
A high school drop out, he was homeless for time and slept in the subway.
"You'd see various rare maintenance vehicles you'd see these workers cleaning at the wee hours of the morning occasionally you would see really very large rats it was an experience. Its something I wouldn't want to go back through," said James Allen.
He has become self sufficient as his reputation as an artist grows. About his first sale?
"I couldn't believe it. I thought it was just one of my farfetched dreams that I'd actually be an artist. But it actually came to life," said James Allen.
To learn about James Allen's work and Project Onward, visit projectonward.org
Legendary Chicago newsman Harry Porterfield profiled Allen for his segment "Someone You Should Know" on ABC7 News, broadcast January 11, 2007