Creative Acts’ Art Attacks program teaches incarcerated young people the value of their voice and the importance of participating in civic engagement through voting, and connecting with and finding leadership roles in organizations that are affecting change in their communities. We use community drawn art, spoken word poetry and other artistic endeavors to engage and inspire incarcerated youth to change their narratives about who they are and the impact they have. Our pilot program showed an 86% rise in voting for participants and facilitated deep connections between our incarcerated youth and the organization March for Our Lives.
Has your proposal changed due to COVID-19?
Creative Acts is prepared to bring our Art Attacks program into juvenile camps virtually, if necessary, due to Covid-19 virus concerns. We are in talks with Los Angeles County Probation to use virtual technology such as Zoom to run classes that closely mirror the face to face program. Like many educators, we will need to revise our curriculum accordingly, but the core programming will stay the same: using activities and lessons rooted in the arts to help students find their voice, harness its power, and use it to become not only civically engaged members of their community, but also leaders in organizations that are tackling issues that directly affect systems impacted communities, such as our partners, March for Our Lives. In addition, programming online may provide the advantage of bringing March for Our Lives speakers into the class virtually who would otherwise be unable to enter the camps because they are under 18. We hope having communication with peers who have found leadership roles in their communities will inspire even more voter turnout and civic engagement from our students. In the unlikely event that virtual classes are not possible, Creative Acts is prepared to take the program to the same population outside of the youth facilities through local community centers and community-based organizations.
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
County of Los Angeles
In what stage of innovation is this project?
Pilot project or new program
What is the need you’re responding to?
When introducing AB 2477 in 2017, ensuring that people incarcerated in jails and juvenile detention facilities in California can exercise their right to vote, Asm Shirley Weber emphasized, “Civic participation can be a critical component of re-entry and has been linked to reduced recidivism.” In response, Creative Acts piloted the ‘Art Attacks’ program in all County Juvenile Facilities (Children’s Prisons). Our students come from communities of color, backgrounds of low socio-economic status, and lives defined by gangs and institutionalization. Our goal was to show them the power of their vote and connect them to leaders in civic engagement so that their organizations can benefit from the input and participation of the most systems impacted people in their communities. 86% of our participants voted in the May 2018 elections. Expanding the program now will help increase those numbers among the most impacted communities in both local and national elections at this crucial time.
Why is this project important to the work of your organization?
Creative Acts founder Sabra Williams created The Actors’ Gang Prison Project in 2005, and has over 15 years of experience teaching adults and youth behind bars. In addition, the Art Attacks program employs teaching artists who are experienced working with incarcerated youth as well as alumni who have a shared experience of incarceration with our students.The program’s multi-disciplinary arts-based approach offers us the greatest opportunity to meaningfully engage young people. We created this approach because of an understanding of the power of the Arts to create a safe space to heal trauma and to engender deep, non-direct learning. This understanding evolved from fifteen years of bringing arts programming into prison and reentry settings, backed up by research and evidence, documented by mental health professionals and nationally renowned researchers. Our experience with this type of programming makes us uniquely qualified to engage in this work.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?
Direct Impact: 650
Indirect Impact: 3,000
Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.
Our Education system is not built to support children dealing with extreme violence & trauma so we lock them up. But given creative ways to learn these young people start to realize their power and importance. Over 95% of them will return to become our neighbors. We ask what kind of neighbors do we want? Hardened traumatized young people who only know how to act from anger or young people coming back who are on the road to healing & able to make valuable change in their communities by civic participation? They can be our future leaders. They can participate in creating a more inclusive, connected Los Angeles that does not discard people because of what they have suffered & includes them in decisions that will change our culture and city.
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.
The immediate goals of Art Attacks are to increase voter turnout among incarcerated and formerly incarcerated young people, connect systems impacted people to organizations whose work directly affects their communities and help them gain leadership roles in these organizations, connect systems impacted youth with alumni of the program to facilitate dialogue in these communities, and amplify the voices of these too-long ignored populations. Through the LA County Probation department we were able to track voting records of our students in our pilot program and will strive to continue to do so. We also hope to work with Probation to employ a mental health expert who can compile an impact report of the program. And finally, we always create in and out surveys for our students. Because our students are minors, their records are expunged upon release and we are unable to track them through Probation long-term. However, we have a strong alumni community that we intend to build upon moving forward and together with the partnership with March For Our Lives, we have the best chance of being able to continue our relationship with our alumni and develop teaching artists from the pool of young activists and systems-impacted youth for a long-term impact.
Which of the CONNECT metrics will your submission impact?
Social and emotional support
Neighborhood council participation
Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?
LA is the best place to LEARN
LA is the best place to CREATE
LA is the best place to PLAY
Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?
Access to the LA2050 community
Host public events or gatherings