The Los Angeles County Arts Commission has received a one-year grant from the Art for Justice Fund to support the launch of the Arts and Youth Development Project, which will utilize a number of collaborative, arts-based strategies to transform the county juvenile justice system and dismantle the youth-prison pipeline.
With this announcement, the Arts Commission joins a national cohort of 32 fall 2018 grantees.
“National recognition from the Art for Justice Fund is a meaningful acknowledgment of our efforts and will allow us to build on the collaborative work we have undertaken over the last few years,” said Arts Commission Executive Director Kristin Sakoda. “The grant provides important funding to support systems-involved and at-risk youth, further systemic change, and invest in communities through the arts.”
The Art for Justice Fund is a five-year initiative created by Agnes Gund in partnership with Rockefeller Philanthropy advisors and the Ford Foundation. The Fund is dedicated to combating the injustices of mass incarceration through the collective action of artists, advocates, and philanthropists.
The Arts and Youth Development Project aims to build systems of support that both instill a sense of well-being in at-risk young people as well as deter their involvement with the LA County juvenile justice system.
These arts-based strategies include: embedded arts instruction across multiple County systems to foster healing and positive self-expression among youth; in-depth arts instruction for incarcerated youth as a strategy for supporting personal transformation during system involvement; arts instruction as a component of diversion services offered to youth in lieu of arrest or citation; expanded opportunities for foster youth and those from historically marginalized communities to engage in trauma-informed arts practices within their own neighborhoods and; the creation of pathways for at-risk-youth to jobs in LA County’s creative economy.
To advance the project, the LA County Arts Commission will work in collaboration with other County Agencies and non-profits already working in this sphere and will convene an inter-agency youth arts task force to address opportunities for using arts practices to support this work.
With this award, the Arts Commission joins a number of other LA County-based organizations that also received funding from the Art for Justice Fund, including Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network, The Actor’s Gang, Dignity and Power Now, Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural, The Vera Institute of Justice (LA Chapter) and WriteGirl, all of which will be working on projects related to the criminal justice system.
“The arts are a powerful means to go from trauma to transformation,” said artist, activist, Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural founder and Los Angeles Poet Laureate (2014–16) Luis J. Rodriguez. “The Arts for Justice Fund understands that healing and change are linked. In Los Angeles County we must move forward with the principle that wholeness and wellness should be integrated with the arts.”
On Tuesday, Dec. 18, the LA County Board of Supervisors demonstrated its support for the project and the critical role of the arts for system-involved individuals and communities at risk, approving a motion co-authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl instructing the Arts Commission to develop recommendations for further elevating and sustaining these efforts over time.
“The arts have proven effective in helping people in the justice system achieve a measure of healing and personal transformation, as well as the skills needed for jobs such as those in the creative economy,” Ridley-Thomas said. “I am confident the Arts Commission will make the most of the Arts for Justice grant. I also look forward to them developing a long-term strategy for using the arts to help individuals transition smoothly back into society after their time in the justice system, and to prevent at-risk individuals from entering the justice system in the first place.”
“I am very happy that two national philanthropic institutions are investing in LA County’s dream to bring more art to our justice-involved young people,” Keuhl said. “We know that every one of these young men and women have suffered trauma, and we also know that the arts are a potent tool for helping them express that experience and learn to move beyond it.”
To learn more about the Arts and Youth Development Project, visit ArtForJusticeFund.org/Grantees/Los-Angeles-County-Arts-Commission.
The Los Angeles County Arts Commission fosters excellence, diversity, vitality, understanding and accessibility of the arts in Los Angeles County, encompassing 88 municipalities, and provides leadership in cultural services.
In addition to its role as an arts funder, the Arts Commission implements the regional initiative dedicated to restoring arts education to 81 school districts, funds the largest arts internship program in the country and manages the County’s civic art policy. lacountyarts.org.