Adama Coulibaly in front of a piece, “Save Thy Terre,” that sold after The Onishi Project exhibition.
Artist and IRC Youth Programs Alum Adama Coulibaly in front of a piece, “Save Thy Terre,” that sold after The Onishi Project exhibition.
Photo: Nigel Walker

On the evening of January 18, 2018, several IRC NY staff and current and former youth programs participants braved the wind and frigid temperatures to trek downtown to the Onishi Gallery in Chelsea, warmed by the pride of attending an art show opening that night featuring the artwork one of our recent youth programs alumni, Adama Nanguin Abib Coulibaly.

Originally from Cote d'Ivoire, Adama arrived in the US less than six years ago. He attended the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA) and then enrolled into 9th grade at Brooklyn International High School. He and his mom participated in the Academic Coaching program, and a few years later, Adama became a "Leader in Training" - including working as a Peer Mentor at RYSA in 2014 and 2015. Meanwhile, he honed his artistry. When he graduated high school in 2015, he enrolled at the Borough of Manhattan Community College studying liberal arts, playing soccer, and painting. 

A year later, Adama presented the IRC in NY with a piece entitled "Love & Leadership," explaining that it represented what he gained from his experiences with IRC; it hangs in our conference room today. At the same time, he was carrying his portfolio into dozens of galleries all over the City seeking the opportunity of an exhibition. The Onishi Project gave him just that opportunity. A division of Onishi Gallery, The Onishi Project connects emerging and mid-career artists to patrons across the globe. Adama was invited to participate in one of The Onishi Project's winter shows. 

In between mingling, viewing the other artists' work, and taking pictures, we also listened in as Adama confidently, and with his always warm and genuine smile, explained his pieces to the show's visitors with an ease that belied the hard work, countless hours, and perseverance that it took to get them there. His IRC family was thrilled to be there to offer congratulations and encourage his success. 

To see the pieces from the show, please visit:

Follow Adama on Instagram at @adama_abib_jr and view more of his work at