[L.A. County Probation Dept.] –
“Dignity.” “Wisdom.” The words on the giant mural painting unveiled Friday didn’t necessarily come easily or lightly from the teenage residents at Los Angeles County Probation’s Camp Mendenhall in Lake Hughes. It took 110 teenage boys from the camp and 14 weeks of intensive instruction with an artistic mentor to carefully choose the evocative blend of words, vivid colors and the motivational design of the mural that spans a ten foot by 100 foot section of the Mendenhall Camp administration building.
“This is not just an art project. This is about instilling in these youth the practice of thinking creatively about their own strengths,” explains Felicia Cotton, Deputy Chief of Juvenile Institutions. “We want to give them what we call a tool chest of personal resources to replace the anti-social behaviors and anti-social decisions they have made in the past.”
The Los Angeles County Office of Education and the community-based organization Theatre of Hearts/Youth First are part of the ongoing County collaboration with Los Angeles County Probation. “Involvement in the arts, and projects like this one, give these talented young people a reason to be proud of their achievement and shows them that commitment and hard work can lead to successful productive lives, said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.
The 2012 National Endowment for the Arts report, “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth” documents evidence showing at-risk youth are three times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree.
The program assessments show that participating in the mural project at Camp Mendenhall lead students to express themselves in constructive and creative ways around their chosen theme. In this case with “The Freedom of Knowledge” theme, teachers guided individual students on a process of discovery to imagine how the theme can be expressed through images and brought to life in the mural design.
The first phase with the youth was a wealth of critical thinking exercises. In the second phase, students gained an authentic sense of ownership as they entered the role of the artist, painting the wall and installing the mural.
The ongoing partnership between Los Angeles County Probation, the Los Angeles County Office of Education and the Theatre of Hearts/Youth First has resulted in the installation of a large number of murals with original works of arts created by the County’s residence-based youth at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, Camp Scott-Scudder in Saugus and Central Juvenile Hall.