Art Class Instead Of Jail: New Program Lets Young Offenders Take Free Art Classes Rather Than Spend Time in the Criminal System

Art saves lives, and art can also save an indi­vid­ual from the stig­ma of an arrest record, pro­vid­ed that the arrest is for one of 15 non-vio­lent mis­de­meanors.

Project Reset, a muse­um-based ear­ly diver­sion pro­gram in three of New York City’s five bor­oughs, aims to reframe the way youth­ful (and not so youth­ful) offend­ers see them­selves, by con­sid­er­ing an art­work via a col­lec­tive inter­pre­tive process, before using it as the inspi­ra­tion for a col­lage or oil pas­tel-based project of their own.

The stakes are high­er and far more per­son­al than they are on the aver­age pub­lic school field trip. Upon com­ple­tion of a class rang­ing from 2.5 to 4 hours, the participant’s record is wiped clean and their assigned court date is ren­dered moot.

Rather than being herd­ed through a num­ber of gal­leries, par­tic­i­pants zero in on a sin­gle work.

At the Brook­lyn Muse­um, par­tic­i­pants in the under-25 age range get a crash course in Shift­ing the GazeTitus Kaphar’s inten­tion­al palimpsest, in which all the fig­ures in a repli­ca of Frans Hals’ Fam­i­ly Group in a Land­scape are whit­ed out so view­ers may focus in on the only char­ac­ter of col­or, a young boy who appears to be a fam­i­ly ser­vant.

Old­er par­tic­i­pants under­take a sim­i­lar­ly deep dive on The Judge­ment by Bob Thomp­son, an African Amer­i­can artist who was inspired by the con­stant inter­play between good and evil.

While this may strike some as a cushy pun­ish­ment, it’s a legit­i­mate attempt to acquaint par­tic­i­pants with the very real impact their actions could have on future plans—including col­lege admis­sions and job appli­ca­tions.

Man­hat­tan Dis­trict Attor­ney, Cyrus Vance Jr., one of Project Reset’s archi­tects, shared a non-par­ti­san fis­cal take with City Lab’s Rebec­ca Bel­lan that may per­suade naysay­ers who feel the pro­gram rewards bud­ding crim­i­nals by giv­ing them an easy out:

If you jump sub­way turn­stiles in Man­hat­tan, you nev­er go to jail. You can do it 100 times and no court is ever going to send you to jail. So we spend about $2,200 to process a theft of ser­vices arrest for a $2.75 fare. Our jus­tice sys­tem falls most heav­i­ly on com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, and we real­ly need to rethink how we approach these cas­es, both to get bet­ter out­comes, but also to reduce the impact which is very often viewed as tar­get­ed and unfair on par­tic­u­lar com­mu­ni­ties.

Above is a list of the non-vio­lent mis­de­meanors that can chan­nel first timers toward the apt­ly named Project Reset.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Why Med Schools Are Requir­ing Stu­dents to Take Art Class­es, and How It Makes Med Stu­dents Bet­ter Doc­tors

Won­der­ful­ly Off­beat Assign­ments That Artist John Baldessari Gave to His Art Stu­dents (1970)

The Art Insti­tute of Chica­go Puts 44,000+ Works of Art Online: View Them in High Res­o­lu­tion

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC for her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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