BCS Brings the Arts to Community Service

ADP Community Service participants receiving a tour of select exhibits at the Bronx Museum of the Arts
This past November, Bronx Community Solutions, in partnership with the Bronx Museum of the Arts, offered a three-day arts education workshop with participants of the Bronx Community Solutions Adolescent Diversion Program, exploring the intersection between art, social justice, and community awareness.

Over three days, five ADP participants were selected to work under the guidance of Ellie Krakow, a visual artist and arts educator with the Bronx Museum of the Arts, to tour the Bronx Museum’s current exhibition, discuss the social issues addressed in the artwork, hone their artistic voice and create original works of art in the museum’s art studio. Their participation satisfied a court mandate after a misdemeanor arrest, as an alternative to short-term jail available through the Bronx Community Solutions Adolescent Diversion Program.

On the first day, each participant was challenged to exit their comfort zones and enter a world where their voices and bodies are their power. Participants engaged, hesitantly at first, in Boal exercises, from the Theater of the Oppressed, where games, drama, and language are used to understand social reality and seek to change it. Participants were then asked to brainstorm ideas about pressing social issues they would like to see changed in their lives and in their community. Major themes shared were gang violence, police brutality, and legalization of marijuana. Participants were prompted to visualize imagery and draw sketches of their chosen theme and were supported in the initiation of the print making process—creating their matrix (an etched plate to be used to create their print).

On the second day, participants were given a guided tour of select works of art from the Bronx Museum’s private collection currently on exhibition. The tour was given on a day in which the museum was closed to the public which allowed full access to the gallery space. The exhibition “in print / imprint” was chosen because it highlights print making as an invaluable tool for channeling political concerns. Due to its mass reproducibility, economy, ease of distribution, and collaborative character, printmaking has long been considered a vehicle for social agency and has played a major role in politically mobilizing different communities and constituencies. Participants were afforded the opportunity for in-depth discussion of theme, history, and message of artwork by celebrated artists such as Kara Walker, Sanford Biggers, and Vitto Acconci.

Kara Walker
Sanford Biggers
Participants were then afforded additional studio time in which they were given a lesson in printmaking. With art aprons on and tools in hand, each participant created a limited edition of their print.

Participants learned from museum staff how to make prints of their work

On day three participants continued their discussion of issues that were important to them, and what they wished to express about themselves. They considered different methods and strategies for conveying their messages artistically with text, and each adopted a unique approach to articulating their message. Once the projects were completed, participants were encouraged to respond to each other’s projects, discuss the artistic elements as well as subject matter, and the meaning of the messages conveyed.

By the conclusion of day three, all participants had created works of art responding to social issues that were important to them, and engaged in dialogue about community issues with their peers. It was a huge success, and we look forward to future collaboration with the Bronx Museum of the Arts!

- Monica Garcia, Coordinator of Community Engagement and Initiatives
- Rebecca Stahl, Youth Justice Coordinator