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Impact Stories to Inform Arts Learning Practices

Date: 21 September 2021
This photo is taken outdoors in the Norwegian countryside and is a landscape-style image. The photographer chose to focus on a large, partially rusted tin barn. On the front of the barn and centered in the photograph, a street artist painted a mural of a young person in a seated position. The mural subject is wearing a black hoodie and reading a book titled "Street Art Cookbook." The photo's foreground is bright green pasture, and the background of the photo includes a wall of bright green trees. Photo by Mark König on Unsplash

This photo is taken outdoors in the Norwegian countryside and is a landscape-style image. The photographer chose to focus on a large, partially rusted tin barn. On the front of the barn and centered in the photograph, a street artist painted a mural of a young person in a seated position. The mural subject is wearing a black hoodie and reading a book titled “Street Art Cookbook.” The photo’s foreground is bright green pasture, and the background of the photo includes a wall of bright green trees. Photo by Mark König on Unsplash

AEP is excited to launch the Juvenile Justice Series: Broadcasting Arts Experiences this month. Each blog post in the series will focus on arts learning impact stories from youth in the care of juvenile justice facilities or those directly providing services to youth.

This series is the next step in our work that explores the role of the arts in the juvenile justice system. In 2019, AEP began researching and sharing our learning on arts education in juvenile justice settings. During this time, we learned that sharing arts experiences that influence youth while learning in juvenile justice facilities can play a critical role in understanding effective and sustainable arts learning experiences.

A well-designed arts program can directly affect youth and their families, the artists working with youth, and facility administration and staff. Capturing and sharing impact stories with different audiences gives a voice to youth by sharing the needs and successes related to supportive arts programs. The information gathered from these narratives can complement data assessments that inform decisions on enhancing youth development.

For this series, we ask contributors to reflect on actionable takeaways that programs or facilities could implement to support arts learning experiences, as well as lessons for readers to consider in their roles in a professional or personal capacity with arts learning engagement in juvenile justice spaces. To highlight connections in this work, each contributor responded to similar questions to help us learn what led them to engage in arts learning experiences in juvenile justice settings, how they built and leveraged relationships for deeper impact, what barriers to success they experienced, and how they worked around barriers or changes to accomplish their work.

From centering youth as contributors to including guest writers who directly support youth in the care of juvenile justice facilities, this series emphasizes that lived experiences can provide unique insight about learning in unstable or uncertain circumstances, whether it is due to a viral pandemic or transitioning learning institutions. These narrative-driven posts are valuable additions to this focus area because stories center the people who are influenced by policy decisions in ways that data alone cannot.

As you follow the series, we ask that you reflect on your individual role in this work and consider the following questions:

  • What alignment do I notice with these shared experiences in my work?
  • How can these practices transfer to my current or upcoming work or a peer’s work?
  • If I am doing work in this space, what contribution could I add to this series? If I am not, then do I have someone in my network who could contribute?

Our first guest writer, Parker Nelson, is a horn artist and educator from Fifth House Ensemble. His upcoming post will share data used to support and sustain his organization’s programming. He will also explore the stakeholders involved to create meaningful partnerships and the challenges that sparked innovations and adaptions.

If you’re interested in sharing your arts education experience in juvenile justice settings for a future blog post, let’s connect! You can reach me here.

This is the first post in the multi-part Juvenile Justice Series: Broadcasting Arts Experiences. AEP hopes these story-driven contributions will expand thoughtful discussion and research into the role of the arts in the juvenile justice system. 

When I was asked to create a work of art exploring literacy, I wanted to create a dance but I had no dancers or a studio, so I chose to use my own body in the space I had, my yard. Fluent Nature is video of micro-choreography that explores what cannot be expressed with words, how nature has its own language, and how placing the human body in nature changes the story.

Title: What Is Me and What Is Not Me | Artist: Alex Chadwell | Medium: Music

My thinking on arts and literacy centers around the concept of literacies and artmaking as both sense-making and meaning-making processes that organically and inevitably overlap, intersect, and reciprocate. Compositionally, What is me and what is not me is a sound collage of sorts (there is no notation for the piece, and I'd be hard pressed to recreate it accurately) that abstractly and aurally represents the relationships between literacies and artmaking.

Title: A Curious Honeybee | Artist: Gideon Young | Medium: Film

Offering welcome through traditional and digital elements of literacy, A Curious Honeybee provides an experiential learning environment by activating visual, musical, natural, and emotional literacies.

Title: Tercera Llamada | Artist: Karilú Forshee | Medium: Audio

La Carpa Theatre is a project that I am currently directing in the Detroit Latinx community. The project aims to strengthen and uplift youth voices through devised theatre, in the style of the Mexican Carpas. This audio was created in the theatrical environment envisioned for our project. The ways in which literacies are re-defined are at the heart of La Carpa Theatre's mission.

Title: Literaseas | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite and ink on paper with digital edits

Title: A Riddle | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits

Title: False Binaries | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits