LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Arts & VR for Incarcerated Youth

Art Attacks! has served as an artistic container for incarcerated youth to discover the value of their voice and the importance of civic engagement through the power of the arts. With the support of LA2050 Creative Acts will be able to expand its impact by bringing cutting edge VR programming into juvenile probation camps and halls throughout Los Angeles County to reduce the rate of re-offense, support the unpacking and healing from the traumas of incarceration, and break barriers using arts and tech to disrupt the school to prison pipeline.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Opportunities for People Who Have Been Incarcerated

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

In California, BIPOC people are overrepresented in prison. Nationally, Black people are incarcerated 5x the rate of white people. These racial disparities are also prominent in youth, nationally, an average of 80% of incarcerated youth are Black. In 2014, almost 50,000 CA youth spent time in juvenile court school, 85% of them are youth of color. These statistics reinforce a lack of equity in resources for youth and little access to creative outlets. This empowers us to do the work to initiate reform using the arts and VR technology as tools to combat inequities and reduce recidivism. As we observe how technology is fast overtaking daily life, it is clear that adapting STEAM programs and practices, that is technology with the inclusion of arts, will support our incarcerated and justice-impacted partners. Research shows vital benefits when integrating the Arts within technology to facilitate creative problem solving, communication skills, and positive mental health outcomes.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Currently, the Art Attacks! Civic Engagement Arts program brings incarcerated youth and those with lived experiences together with prominent artists and leaders. Empowering them to use their voices to be agents of civic change. Exercises of Theater, poetry, visual arts and music teach methods of self exploration, emotional capacity and social engagement. We've already had a huge impact with a 100% participant voting rate, and want to deepen that with the addition of VR. After the reentry, mental health and overall skill building success of our VR ReEntry program that is deployed in CA prisons, we want to include VR technology within the Art Attacks! program to support our youth. It is clear that STEAM education is the future for our youth, being able to gamify lessons on history and civics while introducing them to technology that supports core skills will expand our impact. The addition of VR will support STEAM learning for youth across LA County and allow youth to have immersive experiences as they engage with the history of justice in our country. This will include forms of engagement such as being part of a protest, visiting a voting center, even interacting with their peers in public spaces. With this addition, we will be able to support youth's experience of being released. Through these VR exercises, we hope to equip youth with tools to have agency over their freedom, move confidently through society and as experience has shown, reduce the rate of recidivism.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Prisons in California have praised the work and effect of the VR program. As has been widely covered in the press, LA County Probation is in crisis mode, citing a critical lack of programs and staff. We have been asked to expand to support our youth as they face trauma and harm. We have the staff and the deeply impactful program to scale, but need the funding. This program is rooted in civic engagement. As we are on the heels of an election year, we will be able to further support youth in understanding current policies, people, and legislation; as well as the importance of their vote. Doing this with an artistic approach will redefine how LA County youth engage with civics. Finally, the success of this program will be reflected by the circular impact of our organization. A critical component of this is that our alumni lab will have the opportunity to create curriculum for and mentor our youth returning from juvenile facilities, in the critical moment of reentry.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

We've been able to measure the impact of Art Attacks! through our youth's participation in elections. In 2020, 100% of our youth registered and voted in the presidential election. Because we're not legally able to collect identifying data of our youth, we use post program surveys. The probation department has shared direct reflections from our youth to help us measure the impact of our program. 80% of our youth reported that they have a better understanding of why voting and civic engagement is important. We've gauged the impact of our VR program through testimonials from participants serving life sentences as well reports from in-prison mental health supervisors. This has led to a new contract within CDCR to implement this program more frequently in adult prisons. Currently, a member of our staff and 4 members of our Alumni Lab who participated while they were incarcerated are now successful reentered citizens, employed as subject matter experts and teaching artists with us.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 300

Indirect Impact: 5,000