St. Louis #StoryStitchers Artist Collective use art to fight #gunviolence

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It's urban storytelling with an anti-gun message. “We do a lot on gun violence because it is the main issue that the youth want to work on,” said Susan Colangelo, president of St. Louis Story Stitchers Artist Collective, a nonprofit based in University City. “We work collaboratively here, so we look at and listen to what’s happening in the community and we generate ideas.”

Story Stitchers provides a creative outlet for young artists ages 16 to 24. Ideas for Story Stitchers include dance, spoken word, hip hop, videography, photography, writing workshops and publishing.  

“We help them get their voices out,” said Colangelo. “We do discussions with youth that are youth-led. We take that information and generate books, songs, plays. We are picking the city up. I think what we’re doing is community building.“

Story Stitchers member Antonio Clark is a student at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School. “It’s a habit. I can’t stop dancing,” he said. “I love it and that’s why I do it.”

Clark, who enjoys dancing, joined Story Stitchers to be a role model.

“I like standing out, you know what I’m saying? You’re not gonna see me with guns or anything like that,” he said. “I just want the rest of my youth, the rest of my generation to understand that there’s no point in what they’re doing. I know a lot of people that lost their lives to violence, family members, friends, people that I knew from school.”

The message to drop the gun is personal for some of the Story Stitchers and that’s why many of the organization’s performances take place in the neighborhoods where members live. “We have been going into the neighborhoods where our youth live, so Walnut Park, Jeff Vander Lou, we’re going to the juvenile detention center.”

Story Stitchers goes beyond performances, organizing community forums like gun violence summits featuring stakeholders and experts from the community. It’s young people using their skills to be part of the solution.

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#UrbanYogis Offer Free Yoga for Youth in Queens

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Urban Yogis operates in schools and prisons. The group takes the mission around the country, like in Chicago.

Life Camp's Shanair Hogan said they introduced yoga to kids in Chicago and got a lot of push-back at first. But then the kids became excited and yearned for it each day.

Urban Yogis operates in South Jamaica, Queens, on Fridays. Juquille Johnston is one of the instructors. Originally introduced to the practice for his own good, he is now one of the leaders. His passion is rooted in his personal evolution.

This is all part of Life Camp, an anti-gun violence nonprofit organization committed to changing the mindset of youth and community norms. The group's work has become a real draw. Urban Yogis falls under the Life Camp umbrella. The impact of the work is undeniable. They believe yoga has played a role in the drop in crime in the neighborhood.

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#ProjectAttica was awarded a 2017 Neighborhood Grant from Citizens Committee for New York City!

Our group won a 2017 Neighborhood Grant from Citizens Committee for New York City! We join nearly 300 grassroots groups across the city working to build community and improve our neighborhoods. Follow this link to learn more about the Citizens Committee for New York City. To learn more about our past Citizens Committee for New York City grants, click here.

For photos of our Founder & Art Program Director, Antony Posada accepting the award, check out our Instagram feed.

Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Turn City Youth Into Artists

Art by Lajachanae Minter of East English Village Preparatory Academy is on display.  Rachel Woolf, Special to the Free Press

Art by Lajachanae Minter of East English Village Preparatory Academy is on display.  Rachel Woolf, Special to the Free Press

Kenneth Holloway never saw himself as an artist. But then his teacher, Gloria Byers, challenged him to create a piece of artwork using corrugated cardboard, a selfie, pastel chalk and other materials.

The result: A colorful self-portrait using mixed media that was so good, it was selected to be on display during the Detroit Public School Community District Student Exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

"It feels good to let people see my work, to see that it means something," said Holloway, 17, a senior at Osborn College Preparatory Academy.

His artwork is one of hundreds of pieces on exhibit beginning Saturday at the DIA, an annual display that gives students a unique opportunity to showcase their talent.

It's the 80th such exhibition at the museum, and is the longest-running partnership the DIA has with an educational organization. The Detroit Public Schools Foundation and the Ruth T.T. Cattell Education Endowment Fund funded the exhibition.

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Worcester MA Arts program offers troubled youth a chance at creativity

Juvenile Probation Officer Fiona Bycroft-Ryder stands in front of Arts Alternative, an exhibit featuring the work by young people in the juvenile court in the Worcester Trial Court lobby. Photo by Christine Hochkeppel.

Juvenile Probation Officer Fiona Bycroft-Ryder stands in front of Arts Alternative, an exhibit featuring the work by young people in the juvenile court in the Worcester Trial Court lobby. Photo by Christine Hochkeppel.

The paintings, drawings and sculptures on display last week in the Worcester Trial Court lobby reflected a wide range of artistic abilities, but the young artists who created them all had one thing in common.

Each has had some involvement with the Worcester County Juvenile Court and each was referred by a judge or probation officer to Arts Alternative, a collaborative effort of the juvenile court and the Worcester Art Museum.

The idea behind the program, now in its fifth year, is to offer troubled youths, from truants and runaways to those deemed delinquent by reason of criminal activity, an introduction to art as a means of positive development and as an option to violence, substance abuse and other negative behavior, according to Fiona Bycroft-Ryder, a juvenile court probation officer.

Participants, ranging in age from 9 to 18, meet once a month at the Worcester Art Museum, where volunteer docent Ginny B. Powell-Brasier takes them on a guided tour and talks with them about specific works of art that are part of the museum’s collection. Then they spend about 90 minutes in a studio with an art instructor doing hands-on activities.

The works of art that result are eventually displayed in a community setting, like the art museum or the courthouse. Most of the participants, many of whom come from low-income or unstable environments, had never been to the art museum before becoming involved in the program, according to Ms. Bycroft-Ryder.

“But what’s nice is we find some young people keep coming to the program even when they’re no longer on probation. Sometimes they’ll bring a friend of a family member,” she said.

The museum has offered scholarships in the past to participants who “have shown artistic talent and want to get more out of it,” Ms. Bycroft-Ryder said.

An exhibit of the participants’ creative efforts was on display last Thursday in the first-floor lobby of the Worcester Trial Court at 225 Main St. Some of the artwork is expected to remain there through the end of this week. The works included paintings, pastels, pencil drawings, clay sculptures, collages and murals.

About 40 people attended the April 20 reception.

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