The New Jim Crow

All of our students at Artistic Noise are, or have been, involved in the juvenile or criminal justice system. Artistic Noise workshops allow space to process the many, culminating daily experiences that a young person endures in the system: standing before a judge, walking through metal detectors, living in locked rooms, etc. Expanding from personal narratives, discussion in workshop naturally turns to addressing the larger societal factors at play that shape our age of mass incarceration.

In the advanced workshop, A&E, participants read the introduction of the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. They call upon research, personal stories, imagery, and more, to create works that disrupt misconceptions about incarcerated or disenfranchised people. The artists worked with materials in innovative ways to create physical disruptions within the artwork itself.

Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program

Harlem, NY                                                                                                                     

Teaching Artist: Laura Schneider

 

With or Without

"With or Without" is a five foot by five foot painting. This two-sided piece represents our world with and without Ubuntu. On the left is an abandoned house, which represents our community without the love, care, and understanding of Ubuntu. The once beautiful house is now in shambles and showing the aftermath of the violence and injustice that plagues our neighborhoods. It is a stark warning of how our entire world can fall apart if we don’t come together and help each other.

On the right side is a poem- the voice of our youth. We worked together to vocalize our views and opinions about how the world could be if we all came together and actively engaged in Ubuntu. The recurring line, “When hatred turns into compassion, when cruelty turns into kindness, communities will start to come together like families,” pin points the simple things we can do in our everyday lives to bring Ubuntu to the ones we love and transform our communities.

Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program

Boston, MA

Teaching Artist: Vanessa Ruiz

 

In Conversation

In Kendrick Lamar’s album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” he edits together snippets of interviews with Tupac so that Tupac appears to be answering questions asked by Lamar. The result is an imagined conversation between Lamar and his late idol that highlights their shared beliefs and the power dialogue and reflection. Participants listened to the interview several times, noting the type of questions asked and the tone of the conversation. They then chose a role model, gone too soon, that they would have liked to speak with. Each artist first came up with the questions, then mined interviews, lyrics, and speeches of their role model to reconstruct a conversation with them. To create the imagery, artists appropriated photographs of the subject, transforming the images by adding the unique patterns and doodles of their own hand. Artists then carved images of the role models into linoleum and created a series of prints.

Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program

Harlem, NY

Teaching Artist: Laura Schneider

 

Obscured Identities

This project was designed to build a conversation focused on obscuring identity in response to Titus Kaphar’s “The Jerome Project.” Participants took self-portrait photographs and learned how to draw their likeness through the technique of gridding. They then created monochromatic paintings of their self-portrait drawings. After completing their paintings, participants decided what parts of themselves they either want to reveal or conceal. Black gesso is used on glass to obscure identity in response to Titus Kaphar using black tar to cover the faces of different men. The monochromatic technique was chosen to teach students basic color theory. Students also practiced contour drawing, gridding and collaging to build technique in preparation for their self-portraits. All projects are constructed to be forgiving, allowing room for growth and confidence. 

Queens ECHOES Program at NYC Department of Probation

Brooklyn KJOP Program at NYC Department of Probation

Teaching Artist: Jazmine Hayes

Art Therapist: Jennifer Kind-Rubin

Art Therapy Intern: Francesca DeBiaso

 

Behind My Back

Behind My Back! With my hands behind my back and a million knifes through my chest, there are still flowers in my eyes, as I wait for the day to wash away these memories and become the shining light once again. I am forever waiting for my chance to become FREE!

Spectrum Program

Detention and Treatment Units, Metro Youth Center, Dorchester, MA

Teaching Artist: Kate Jellinghaus

 

In Response

Hank Willis Thomas’ series Branded uses the visual language of advertisements to critique what is being sold. Through appropriating ads and brands, Willis Thomas reveals how corporations sell ideas rather than products—ideas that distort and exploit notions of race, gender, class, history, and individual imagination. Students responded to Willis Thomas’ images by choosing an advertisement to co-opt or by building off of his individual works. 

Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program

Harlem, NY

Teaching Artist: Laura Schneider


Birth of a New Generation

Birth of a New Generation is a collaborative work made by girls in the Spectrum Detention Center and in Artistic Noise's Art and Entrepreneurship Program. The mixed media sculpture represents the power of unity and conveys to viewers that it takes a strong community to make strong individuals. A motif of interconnectedness can be seen throughout the project. For instance, the community features key Boston landmarks among brick buildings and dumpsters because people across the financial spectrum affect each other in many ways. Without the unification of the four hands, the baby would not be able to be lifted up away from harm. The sleeves are painted in colors and ways that convey the types of things our youth would like to see in their communities. The baby is cast in yellow to represent the new generation, new action within the community, and new hope and optimism that the community has for the child's success. It also represents happiness and imagination, which the girls feel are two characteristics that are important for success. Finally, the baby rests in a bed of origami stars. The girls painstakingly created each individual star by first writing a message, wish or hope inside for themselves and their communities. Then the paper strips were folded into stars and placed with the baby to carry into the future.

Spectrum Program

Detention and Treatment Units, Metro Youth Center, Dorchester, MA

Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program

Boston, MA

Teaching Artist: Vanessa Ruiz

 

The Great Battle

The battle within me is a special tournament that I have front row seats to. The good in me fights the unnecessary evils. As the battle rages on I see my light darkening. The secret route of this battle lies inside me.

Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program

Boston, MA

Teaching Artist: Julia Martini and Minotte Romulus

 

Manifestos

Manifestos. In this project, we explored the chants and phrases of protest movements and their power to inform, make demands and capture collective imagination. By examining text in art and visual culture and by reading and discussing artist manifestos including Martine Syms' Mundane Afrofuturists Manifesto and Merle Laderman Ukeles' Maintenance Manifesto, participants wrote and revised their own Manifestos, pertaining to their experiences, opinions and goals as young women. These longer pieces of writing were then edited to convey the core message of their author using the precise and direct format of a protest banner.

Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program

Boston, MA

Teaching Artist: Eva Joly

 

One War at a Time

"One War at a Time" is inspired by recent events that speak to the issues of racism and injustice that still plague our justice system. The piece was created by girls in Artistic Noise's studio art classes at Spectrum Detention Center and in the community-based Art and Entrepreneurship Program. Over a series of months the girls conceptualized, designed, and created this painting that represents the issues at hand and expresses their desire for resolution. The painting is broken up into three sections. On the left the police car and young man with his hands up and a sign stating "Don't Shoot" speaks directly to our population's fear of being accused, mistreated, and possibly even being killed without just cause. The lack of detail on the faces allows all viewers to put themselves in the place of our characters. On the right a jury of twelve condemns the accused. The grim reaper takes the place of a judge and below him there is a prison cell holding people who have been condemned, representing the lives of those who have been killed or locked-up unfairly. On the bottom, hands reach up in protest. People want to be heard and understood. On their arms, there are written messages for what the community is seeking -- things such as hope, peace, freedom and vitality. The title, "One War At A Time," represents the constant struggle of our population. People, who, even in this day and age, have to fight for equality and fairness. It relates to prejudice and how we treat one another and shows the world that we want things to change.

Spectrum Program

Detention and Treatment Units, Metro Youth Center, Dorchester, MA

Teaching Artist: Minotte Romulus

 

From The Outside In

"From The Outside In" is a collaborative sculpture created by girls in the Spectrum Detention Unit and those in the Arts and Entrepreneurship Program. The piece is a multi-layered cone-shaped sculpture, inspired by Russian nested dolls, called "matryoshka." The tallest, outside cone is 2' tall. The five layers of this piece represent the inner selves of our participants as "dolls." Youth participants brainstormed imagery for the different layers, which represent the different layers of self, from outside persona to innermost being. The outermost doll represents the "outer self" which is visible to the public and is decorated with flowers and diamonds. The second, smaller doll represents the "Inner Self", depicting our participants tough histories with a dark night covered in teardrops that become rain, a tree with a broken heart to symbolize broken families, and a stitched scar at the back. The third doll depicts our participants' hopes and dreams of having a happy family, graduating from school, traveling, and owning a nice home. The fourth doll is a skeleton over a tomb with needles and spiders with a barb-wire fence. This doll shows their fears of death, drugs/overdosing, and continued incarceration. The final and deepest nested doll represents their "core" and what keeps them strong during hard times. This doll is decorated with a tree with a full heart, musical notes, and a rainbow-filled sky.

Spectrum Program

Detention and Treatment Units, Metro Youth Center, Dorchester, MA

Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program

Boston, MA

Teaching Artist: Vanessa Ruiz

Teaching Assistant: Minotte Romulus


Farah's Story

In 2012, Artistic Noise brought together young people in programs at various sites throughout New York City through a collaborative project. Artistic Noise has always focused on the power of individual stories. In the Storytelling Project we used that focus as the basis for building connections between individual stories. In the Storytelling Project we used that focus as the basis for building connections between individuals. The Storytelling Project was based on the belief that empathy and strength can be fostered when we have the opportunity to really listen to another person's story and take the responsibility of transforming it into a work of art. 

Youth and staff began by writing and recording autobiographical stories. Youth interviewed each other, their teachers and staff at their sites, allowing for meaningful connections to emerge. Building on the process of sharing and appreciating these personal histories, we began to plan artwork based off these recordings. Youth swapped stories, by choosing an interview of another participant that touched them and committed to making that person's story into a work of visual art. 

This project exemplifies an integral component of Artistic Noise's mission. Sharing and listening to the story of someone else through art that allows us to explore what it means both artistically and psychologically to be in another's shoes for a period of time. Although all the youth in our programs are involved in the juvenile justice system their individual stories are diverse and, when seen as a whole, transcend the stereotype of troubled urban teens.

Art, Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Program

Harlem, NY

Teaching Artist: Lauren Adelman and Danielle McDonald


Dress of Dreams

The participants at Spectrum Detention began this project by writing a journal entry about their hopes and dreams for the future. Over the next few weeks, the youth artists collaged images and words from their original journal entries onto paper panels for each section of the dress. All of the panels were stitched together to create the final dress, which presents a collective portrait of the girls and their aspirations for a brighter future.

Spectrum Program

Detention and Treatment Units, Metro Youth Center, Dorchester, MA

Teaching Artists: Julia Martini and Minotte Romulus


Ubuntu Quilt

Within the collaborative art practice, the adult role becomes increasingly multi-faceted. Adults must be flexible enough to both take charge and let go. It is this conscious and reflexive action of stepping in and stepping back that is essential for fostering a deep level of youth engagement, youth participation, and youth voice. When we step in, we are aware of the need to create a safe and enriching space, organize and plan, motivate, facilitate, mentor, teach, share knowledge, and share ourselves. Alternatively, when we step back, we create openings for youth to step into these roles. We must make the leap of faith necessary to yield responsibility and control of the project to the youth. 

This Ubuntu Quilt Project was born from such a “perspective shift”. The project’s theme, hair braiding, came out of what was initially a conflict of interest: girls in lock up had stopped coming to the Artistic Noise art sessions on Saturday afternoons because that was the time they were given to braid each other’s’ hair and that was their preferred activity. Instead of fighting this situation, we decided to use hair braiding as a theme for our next visual inquiry. After all, braiding hair is not only a symbol of sisterhood, friendship, self-esteem, and beauty, it also is one of the most ancient forms of art.

We started this project by bringing in a video camera ad giving the girls an opportunity to document the braiding process through stop motion photography. We then took stills from these sessions and projected them on paper on the walls and started doing sketches and paintings from the photos. From there, we started exploring hair braiding across time and place: from ancient Nigerian head sculptures (Benin) to present day hair styles. We did weeks of drawings and paintings of heads, hair and head dressings, exploring different notions of beauty across cultures. Eventually, these drawings formed the source material for the quilted designs, which became the centerpiece of the Ubuntu Quilt.

Over 50 people helped bring this project to fruition, including girls in the juvenile justice system, together with their friends, volunteers and teaching artists. The final quilt was entitled Ubuntu, which is a Bantu word that relates to human kindness and roughly translates to: “I am what I am because of who we all are”. Hair braiding is a perfect metaphor for Ubuntu because it is not only difficult to braid one’s own hair, it is not as pleasing or enjoyable.

Spectrum Program

Detention and Treatment Units, Metro Youth Center, Dorchester, MA

Artistic Noise’s Community Program, Boston, MA

Teaching Artists: Kate Jellinghaus and Minotte Romulus

Mentor Artist: Diana Gomez

Volunteers: Francine Sherman, John Ewing, Caroline Bagenal


Sepia Stories

This project provided specific guidelines for collage work in mixed media, teaching students how to build a visually unified and compelling image. The project allowed for great freedom in thematic exploration. Girls developed the themes themselves, choosing to address issues of poverty, beauty, social acceptance, racism, suffering, and forgiveness, among others.

Spectrum Program

Detention and Treatment Units, Metro Youth Center, Dorchester, MA

Teaching Artist: Kate Jellinghaus and Minotte Romulus