Mr. James Walter

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Discussion About Art Works For Flint's Detained Youth

The first juvenile in the now infamous city of Flint to be automatically tried as an adult on a charge of first-degree murder, Randy spent the six months awaiting trial at GVRC, Genesee County Michigan’s short-time juvenile detention facility. As his only visitor, I met with Randy weekly. Randy’s focus during these meetings was not on his role as the shooter in a five-defendant murder trial, but on the drawings, designs, and paintings he had created that week. Never having had any type of formal art education, Randy spent his time in detention drawing, both in the art class that was part of the detention center’s educational program and during virtually all of his “free” time. “Drawing was the life preserver that kept him afloat. It was what gave him hope. It allowed him to express himself, to develop a skill, and to become someone other than the first kid in Genesee County to face life imprisonment without parole.” Rosenbaum & Spivack, Implementing a Gender-Based Arts Program for Juvenile Offenders, at xiv (2014). An online paper writing service offers an original content about state bar crafted by our professional essay writers.

Fast-forward to 2011. Randy, who had been convicted of the lesser charge of second-degree murder and received a 22-year sentence, had been released from prison earlier that year. GVRC, while still housing youth awaiting trial on both juvenile and adult charges, had been the victim of budget cuts and no longer offered any type of arts education to youth like Randy.

My thoughts in March of 2011 turned to Randy as I saw a flier soliciting proposals for Share Art Flint, a grant program initiated by the Ruth Mott Foundation aimed at bringing arts programing to underserved populations in Flint. As a board member of the Buckham Fine Arts Project, an artist-run contemporary arts gallery, I envisioned a program in which our artist members would share their talents and expertise with Flint’s detained youth by conducting arts workshops at GVRC.

With the help of our artist members, GVRC administration, as well as faculty and students at University of Michigan-Flint, the vision became a reality when the Ruth Mott Foundation awarded Buckham funding for a three-month pilot project to start in September of 2011. TheBuckham/GVRC Share Art Project is now in its sixth year of programming, offering visual arts, theater, spoken-word poetry, and dance workshops to youth detained in one of the most violent and economically and environmentally distressed cities in our nation.

Why Arts Programming?

Research has shown that arts education has a positive effect on the development of youth. However, with decreasing budgets, communities and schools have drastically reduced or cut arts programming. As a result, most incarcerated youth have never been exposed to classes or workshops in the visual or performing arts.

Research has also shown that the introduction of arts programming in the criminal justice system has had a beneficial effect on justice-involved youth. A 2003 study examined a program in which professional artists conducted visual arts, poetry, and music workshops in a detention facility. The researchers identified four major processes that led to the success of the program: “connecting, expressing, learning, and discovery.” Ezell & Levy, An Evaluation of an Arts Program for Incarcerated Juvenile Offenders, 54 J. Correctional Educ. 108, 113 (2003).

Involvement in the arts has also been shown to result in the development of positive identity. This is particularly important for detained youth as “disconnecting from illegal activity often involves imagining a different life.” Through involvement with the arts youth have an opportunity to explore, use their imaginations, and begin to re-create themselves. (Ross, Exploring the Ways Arts and Culture Intersect with Public Safety (Urban Institute 2016). Other studies have found that arts programming can result in reduced negative behaviors and more effective emotional communication, as well as contributing to the development of both cognitive processes and pro-social skills, all of which are crucial for justice involved youth. The writer assigned to write my essay request about state bar is qualified to the same academic level or higher than your writing requirements.

Pilot Project Design

GVRC is a short-term detention center housing males and females ages 10–17 who are court-ordered into secure detention while awaiting trial, disposition, or placement for offenses ranging from violation of probation for status offenses to first-degree murder. The facility holds up to 60 youth and consists of three wings, two of the wings housing males and one of the wings housing primarily females. While the average length of stay is 21 days, youth who are awaiting trial on adult offenses often remain in the facility for about six months. GVRC offers basic educational programming; however, as the facility is designated solely as a detention center, there are no treatment programs available to the youth during their stay.

In designing the pilot project, our team of artists, university professors, and criminal justice professionals sought to create a program that would enable the youth to develop their artistic talent in a safe and nonjudgmental atmosphere while at the same time allowing them to express their “pain, joy, and hope.” Ezell & Levy, supra. Working closely with the GVRC administration, we developed a plan that would expose a maximum number of youth to arts workshops. Two separate workshops—visual arts and spoken-word poetry—would be conducted for a period of four weeks in each of the three wings, and each workshop would be taught by a team of two artists and limited to a maximum of ten youth. At the end of the three-month pilot project, an exhibit of the youths’ work would be held at Buckham Gallery in downtown Flint

The artist-teachers we chose to participate in the program were all working artists who had previously taught in community or youth arts projects and had a demonstrated ability to connect with youth of all backgrounds as well as an ability to teach fundamental artistic skills and techniques. Because none of the artist-teachers had previously worked in a detention facility, training sessions were held with GVRC staff and administrators so that all the teachers had a clear understanding of the rules of the facility. Always choose the best college essay examples that guarantees quality state bar content in an essay format.


In the spoken-word poetry workshops, the artist-teachers “challenged the youth to explore their own feelings and helped them use language as a means of self-expression and communication.” (Rosenbaum & Spivack, supra, at 20. During the sessions, they were not only teachers but mentors and active participants, choosing themes such as mistakes, negative and positive identities, and life stories. Each workshop followed a basic format, starting with an exercise allowing the youth to create their own identity by naming themselves. The artist-teachers then presented pieces of their own poetry relating to the chosen theme and helped the youth become “active” listeners by questioning them about what they had heard. The youth were then challenged to write their own pieces and, at the end of class, present them orally as spoken word.

The artist-teachers leading the visual arts workshops not only taught drawing techniques but also worked with the youth to improve cognitive skills, sharpen their observational abilities, cultivate imagination, and work cooperatively.