Mentor artist, Shontina Vernon. Creative Justice 2015: Session 1. Timothy Aguero Photography.

Mentor Artist, Shontina Vernon. Creative Justice 2015: Session 1. Timothy Aguero Photography.

We are thrilled to announce that Creative Justice, our arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County, has been recognized with a Public Art Network (PAN) Year in Review award!

Piloted in 2015, the program is funded by Percent for Art revenue generated through the design and construction of the county’s new Children and Family Justice Center—which will collocate the region’s juvenile court and jail—and a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Forty eight youth facing criminal charges worked with mentor artists—Aaron Counts, Daemond Arrindell, Nikkita Oliver, Otieno Terry, and Shontina Vernon—instead of being detained. In exchange for their creative work and through partnership with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, participants received community service credit, cash stipends, and a range of court benefits. Of the 48 participants, 29 had their charges dismissed. King County is now asking that the program be expanded in 2016 and beyond.

Creative Justice is one of 38 outstanding public artworks to be honored by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education. PAN is the only national program that specifically celebrates the most compelling public art. Three of the projects recognized this year were supported by Washington State organizations.

Of the award, Aaron Counts, Lead Engagement Artist for Creative Justice, said:

The Creative Justice team is grateful for this acknowledgement, and so proud of the work we’re doing. The school to prison pipeline is real, and far too many of our youth—most of them black, brown, and poor—are jailed despite major research that shows incarceration does not make communities any safer.

Rather than further stigmatize and isolate young people in crisis, Creative Justice rallies around them, providing creative development through meaningful interactions with supportive mentor artists. But more importantly, Creative Justice has asked our juvenile justice system to behave differently, too: by viewing our youth with a wider lens, trusting the community to address its own needs, and celebrating the strengths and creativity of young people who are trying to navigate a complex world.

Using the power of art to share our struggles and articulate our potential, Creative Justice is building a stronger community here in King County.

Learn more about the program, its impact, and the incredible creative work of our youth at creativejustice.4culture.org.