In an effort to strengthen the interpersonal and institutional resources available for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, School of Visual Arts’ (SVA) MPS in Art Therapy program has formed a partnership with Artistic Noise, an independent nonprofit that “exists to bring the freedom and power of artistic practice to young people who are incarcerated, on probation, or otherwise involved in the justice system” (“Artistic Noise,” 2018). Building on my relationship with Artistic Noise co-founder, artist and educator Lauren Adelman, MA, we developed a short-term group and community-based art therapy project that locates the source of juvenile delinquency in the social context rather than in the individual. The youth titled this project Good Art: Bad City.
Collaboration with the young people began in September 2017 at Artistic Noise in Harlem, expanded to SVA in lower Manhattan, and is on display through May, 2018. The young people are working together with students, staff, specific groups and the general public to create murals on the walls of the department studio. The therapeutic goals of Good Art: Bad City are increasing collaboration skills and providing opportunities to develop healthy trusting relationships.
The restorative practice for the community involved handing the institution’s walls and leadership over to the youth. Gennesis, Lamont, Juwan, Samantha, Angel, Bishop, Dorthy, Tyrik, Eli, and Davon, the youth, define their intentions:
This mural installation is for us but we’re sure you’ll relate to it. We want you to feel the isolation our youth experience in all forms possible…like waking up to a black and white reality, or like Kool-Aid with no sugar, there will be no flavor. We want to show you how our neighborhood would look like if it was less violent and just a calm place to be. We want everyone to know it’s never good to stereotype because whatever you are assuming, you could be wrong.
This mural installation is for all the young black folks who always felt like they would not amount to nothing, but need to remember to keep an open mind. Our wings are made for a statement itself, to tell and show that everybody has wings, but it’s your choice to risk and fly. We really just want this installation to enlighten other interested people.
Along with Liz DelliCarpini, MPS art therapy students, Michal Assif, Arielle Edelheit, Kayley Giorgini, Jennifer James, and Mary Santivanez, and Artistic Noise staff, Francesca DeBiaso, MPS, and Nic Holiber, MFA, joined the youth as facilitators. Please note, per Artistic Noise policy, faces of the youth are not shown in photographs because “our society can be unkind to people with a history of incarceration” (“Our Youth,” 2018).