Virtually Free: Arts Education and Juvenile Justice

On a given day, more than 43,000 youth are held in residential placement facilities because of involvement with the juvenile justice system. Shine Global’s film “Virtually Free” follows teens detained in a Richmond detention center as they write and record poetry, collage, take photographs, silk screen and use spray paint to become activists in their communities. This plenary session shares conversation with the film’s producer, director and teaching artists to learn more about how this film can be used to inspire juvenile justice reform.

Presenter Bios

A. Hasan Davis, Principle/Founder of Hasan Davis Solutions LLC, is an artist, educator and advocate. Arrested at age 11 and expelled from alternative school at age 18, Hasan earned his G.E.D., focused his artistic gifts and went on to earn his Juris Doctor. As a teaching and touring artist, he has produced three living history performances. In 2012, Hasan became Commissioner of Kentucky Juvenile Justice. During his tenure, he ensured youth access to creative outlets from mural projects to Shakespeare Behind Bars. Currently, his work addresses issues of race, equity and inclusion using creative engagement to improve outcomes for children and youth.

Gina Lyles is one of the three co-directors for Performing Statistics who guide the project’s direction. She supports the human-to-human connections that ground Performing Statistics in authentic relationships with youth, credible messenger mentors, and partners. Gina leverages her own life experiences as a self-described, “school-to-prison pipeline survivor” to navigate and empower youth caught in the justice system. She began her journey with Performing Statistics through ART180 in 2015 before becoming the engagement director of Performing Statistics in 2019.

Susan MacLaury, co-founder and executive director at Shine Global, Inc., executive produced the Emmy Award®-winning, Academy Award®-nominated documentary War/Dance, as well as The Harvest (La Cosecha), the Academy Award® Winner Inocente, 1 Way Up in 3D, The Eagle Huntress, and Liyana. She is also the producer of The Wrong Light and Virtually Free and Co-Producer of Tre Maison Dasan. Susan is in charge of the educational outreach and social advocacy efforts for all of Shine Global’s films. She is dually degreed in social work administration and health education and was associate professor of health education at Kean University from 1994 through 2013.

Andre Lee, director and producer at Many Things Management, is a filmmaker and uses his films in his keynotes and presentations around issues related to Anti-Racism, Inclusion, and Diversity. André’s experiences include Many Things; New York City Public Schools, The Ford Foundation, Miramax Films, Urbanworld, Film Movement, Diana Ross, BET, RuPaul, Universal, HBO, Picturehouse, and Dreamworks. André directed Virtually Free; directed and produced The Prep School Negro. Produced the documentary I’m Not Racist…Am I?, André is dedicated to a feature film or series on the life and times of Bayard Rustin. André has taught at Wharton.

Access additional 2020 AEP Virtual Gathering resources here.

Author profile

Title: 2280 Pasos Bajo un Cielo Nublado | Artist: Hernán Jourdan | Medium: Film

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