From Houston, Texas comes this positive and innovative art therapy program – Children’s Prison Arts Project. Founded in 1994 by an artist and educator, Birgit Walker, the Children’s Prison Arts Project has become a non-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth and incarcerated juveniles to express themselves through the arts. Included are visual arts, theater and creative writing.
to introduce juvenile offenders in correctional facilities and shelters to an innovative educational theater and visual arts forum where they can express their thoughts and visions in constructive ways.
The mission of the Children’s Prison Arts Project is to be able to let these youth use their thoughts and creativity to express emotions associated with being incarcerated. The arts can help people unlock learning barriers and can open up new worlds of interest and inter-action amongst their peers.
In addition, the Children’s Prison Arts Project helps with positive role modeling which can help counter the negative thoughts that can surround at-risk youth. Theatrical expression can help to encourage constructive self-expression, positive self-images, non-violent solutions and critical thinking.
An interesting aspect of using the arts to help build self-confidence is the opportunity to participate in literature and theater, where individuals have been able to overcome great odds and to become contributing members of society–a great example and role model for those incarcerated.
And very importantly, the Children’s Prison Arts Project builds positive peer experiences, helping to bring about racial tolerance and empathy. In addition, this program can help build long-lasting friendships and support groups.
Art exhibits and theatrical performances from the students are shared with the community providing positive feedback and encouragement for the youth to continue expressing themselves in this positive manner.
What is wonderful about this program is in a world of incarceration, juveniles can express their identity, and increase their self-esteem and self-worth. Expressing themselves in a controlled environment also teaches them how to express their emotions in non-violent ways and to be able to communicate within society. Here is to a great program and we would all love to see more of this type of positive influence on at-risk youth.