"Become Your Dream"

"Become your dream. What does that mean to you?" That was the question posed to youth offenders during a very special community service project this past week. Every Wednesday Bronx Community Solutions takes a group of clients to World Vision to help sort and stock supplies, but last week World Vision and Bronx Community Solutions paired up with renowned New York City street artist James De La Vega to create a more unique day of service. Read more...

Upon his arrival, De La Vega invited the eight high-school age youth who were participating to sit around him on the floor of World Vision's warehouse, in front of two big, empty white walls. Originally from Spanish Harlem, De La Vega told the youth a little about his background. While he was growing up in Spanish Harlem on welfare, he was offered a scholarship to a private prep school. One of only a few students of color in the entire school, De La Vega graduated and went on to study art at Cornell University.

A "sidewalk philosopher," De La Vega shared many of his personal philosophies and interactive ideas with the youth. He spoke with the youth about how they controlled their destinies and how they could be successful on their own terms, if they lived their dream. As he spoke, he covered the walls with black spray paint in the outline of many of his unique murals and chalk drawings. He then simply said, "add life to it." In other words, he wanted the group to add color to his unique but simple sketches.

The group - which consisted of the young community service participants, World Vision staff, and De La Vega himself - added colors, designs, quotes, and symbols to the wall with brightly colored paint. Over the course of the day, those empty white walls were transformed into an amazingly inspirational and thought provoking mural of vivid colors. These young clients, who were at first hesitant to participate in this project, became very interested and involved in creating this art. Not only did this project give the young clients an opportunity to do something other than lifting boxes, stocking supplies, or cleaning parks, but it also gave them a chance to realize their abilities both to create art and to control their futures.


As Bronx Community Solutions has spent more time working on the issue of graffiti, we've learned more about the complexity of the issue. Working with an artist like De La Vega was a tremendous youth development for us. On the other hand, De La Vega is a "street artist" who is known for working mostly on sidewalks and buildings (usually in impermanent mediums like chalk), and has even run afoul of the law for graffiti (in the Bronx!). We've heard a whole range of opinions from community members, from those who support using hip-hop and youth culture artists to reach our young clients, to those who believe that any art in a "graffiti" style encourages and condones illegal activity (and that young people aren't mature enough to know the difference between legal and illegal graffiti art).
Anonymous said…
What a thoughful comment - I can see how this is kind of a dilemma
Anonymous said…
De La Vega is an absolute genius. His art has a powerful way of reaching people of all ages. His work and his message is very inspiring. He is a powerful reminder of the power of the mind and the human spirit.