Capitol Hill Community Post | Creative Justice Youth Leaders make an impact at MOHAI and the Seattle Library

Creative Justice, a arts-based alternative to incarceration for King County youth, expands through partnerships with MOHAI and the Seattle Public Library, providing a conduit for voices of youth leadership. Now in its third year, Creative Justice serves as a model for policy makers of a community based solution to incarceration for moderate to high-risk youth. Instead of jail time, King County youth are supported by a community network that provides tools to develop skills and build the relationships they need to thrive.

At the Seattle Public Library Creative Justice youth leaders are participating in the Library’s criminal justice series, a year-round project exploring community based justice reform led by the Public Engagement department. The youth have helped shape a forthcoming social media campaign and art installation that is the pilot for the library’s new artist residency program. Working with four professional artists, youth will design and build artistic displays that stimulate deeper civic dialog about the criminal justice system, while centering the voices of those who are most affected.

A sneak peek of their artwork from their library residency will be on view Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. during Someday We’ll All Be Free, an event featuring local organizers Jerrell Davis and Wesley Roach, Los Angeles poet laureate Luis Rodriguez, and a video call with Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.

In addition, Creative Justice is partnering with MOHAI on the installation We Still Live Here, a photographic response to gentrification by Leadership Board youth, which is now on view at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) November 18, 2017 through March 2018. The photographs are displayed in conjunction with MOHAI’s new exhibit Seattle on the Spot: The Photographs of Al Smith, chronicling 65 years of Seattle history and the Central District neighborhood.

Creative Justice, a Public Art program launched by 4Culture, King County’s cultural services agency, has helped over 100 youth create a different future for themselves. More than 70 charges have been dismissed or reduced as a result of the program’s efforts. These youth have been able to avoid the life altering harms associated with a criminal record.

Led by writer and educator Aaron Counts and artist, former mayoral candidate, and program caseworker Nikkita Oliver, Creative Justice provides intensive 16-week sessions for court-involved youth to work with experienced mentor artists and produce original artwork and learn new skills.

After graduating from the program, participants have the opportunity to stay involved through the Youth Justice Leadership Board. These leaders, currently age 16 to 19, provide program input to staff and advisors, serve as peer mentors, and collaborate on creative programs that elevate the voice of youth. Through Broad participation, Creative Justice continues to provide them with opportunities for skill development and personal expression.

Support from national, local, private and public funders and individuals have made it possible for Creative Justice to move beyond a pilot program to a long-term community-based alternative to incarceration for court-involved youth. Creative Justice has received funding from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), EPIC Zero Detention Giving Project, the Seattle Foundation Resilience Fund, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, a community based IndiGoGo campaign and private donors.

Image Credits:
Nani, Youth Board Member. Photo taken by Athena, Creative Justice 2017 participant.

Image Credits:
Street Selfie by Delino, from We Still Live Here

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