This week, New York-based Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute (WMI) and the Los Angeles-based Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network (AIYN) launch Create Justice: A National Discussion on Arts and Justice—the first national initiative focused exclusively on the intersection of arts and juvenile justice. A series of three Create Justice forums will bring together thought leaders, artists, representatives from non-profit and government agencies, and policymakers from across the US with the aim of developing collective impact strategies to help our most at-risk children reach their full potential through opportunities in the arts. The series of forums begins on March 23 and 24 at Carnegie Hall, continues on September 25 and 26 in Los Angeles, and concludes in March 2018 with a culminating event at Carnegie Hall.
Over the past eight years, WMI has become more deeply involved in creating programs for young people in juvenile justice settings, exploring ways that music and art can play a role in their lives. AIYN is a collaborative of 10 organizations with extensive experience in visual, literary, and performing arts education in detention facilities and the only arts collaborative in California working with youth who are incarcerated.
“We have both seen firsthand the meaningful difference that can be made in young people’s lives when you engage them through music and the arts, inviting them to nurture their talents, work toward personal goals, and pursue excellence. It helps equip them to succeed in and strengthen their communities,” said Sarah Johnson, Director of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.
Recognizing that many organizations around the country are doing important work in this area and that there is much to be gained from collaboration on a national scale, Create Justice seeks to harness the power of community organizing drawing upon cross-sector and multi-geographic perspectives.
“The Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network is itself a collaborative effort among 10 member organizations,” said Kaile Shilling, Executive Director of AIYN, “We believe deeply that collaboration, sharing of knowledge, perspective, and expertise is the strongest, most effective way to tackle complex challenges. Supporting this kind of cross-country, cross-sector conversation—grounded in the power of the arts—is exciting for us, and I believe that it speaks to a hunger for connection in this emerging field.”
As members of a broader cultural community, we all have an important role to play.
The US incarcerates more children than any other nation, with a youth incarceration rate that is five times that of the next highest country. Approximately 95% of young people incarcerated have been detained or arrested for non-violent crimes, and time in the system can have lifelong negative consequences. “As a nation that values our young people, there’s too much at stake to not consider creative solutions that forge a more positive path for our kids,” said Johnson. “As members of a broader cultural community, we all have an important role to play.”
The collective of leaders brought together by Create Justice will share ideas and create a national network around juvenile justice reform. The forums will include a series of talks, panel discussions, and artist performances centered on developing innovative solutions to help youth succeed during and after justice involvement. The voices of young people and their artistic work will be represented as part of the process.
The first Create Justice forum, held in Carnegie Hall’s Resnick Education Wing, will be led, in part, by Marc Bamuthi-Joseph, a prominent artist and Chief of Program and Pedagogy for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Participants will have the opportunity to share best practices from their respective communities and identify potential strategies, next steps, and tools to take back home. The second Create Justice forum will be hosted by AIYN in Los Angeles on September 25 and 26, 2017, when participants will be immersed in LA’s new youth detention facility and work side by side with incarcerated youth as they use the arts to reflect, engage, develop, and refine collective ideas that emerged from the first forum. This shared contextual experience will guide discussions as participants begin to craft a national plan.
Create Justice culminates at Carnegie Hall from March 11–13, 2018, with participants developing recommendations for a collective national plan of action. This third and final forum will kick off with a concert in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, featuring young people performing onstage with celebrated artists.
“The arts have a unique superpower,” says Shilling. “They have the ability to shift how people see the world, and each other. I hope these conversations can help us use and focus this superpower to change how we think not just about policy, but also about practice around how we invest in our children.”
Follow the Create Justice project throughout the next year at createjustice.org