Artistic Noise exists to bring the freedom and power of artistic practice to young people who are incarcerated, on probation, or otherwise involved in the justice system.
Through visual arts and entrepreneurship programs in Massachusetts and New York, our participants give voice to their experiences, build community through collaborative projects, and learn valuable life and job skills. Artistic Noise creates safe spaces where court-involved youth can be seen, heard and supported on their path to adulthood. We believe the practice of making art offers opportunities for young people and communities to transform.
Why We Exist
Mass Incarceration and how young people are treated by the juvenile justice system are major social justice issues of our time.
Art is a powerful tool to effect social change. Artistic Noise does this by helping our youth to tell their own stories to the public through art and advocate for themselves and their communities. It is vital for our youth artists to tell their own stories rather than relying on others to tell their stories for them. In addition, our program combining art and entrepreneurship teaches them job skills they would not have learned otherwise, promoting equity and preparing them for future success.
Viewing works of visual art allows the public to connect to and understand the artist without the artist being present. In that way the youth artists’ stories can be told and retold in the public sphere even as they may still be systematically removed from public life while incarcerated.
It all started in 2001 when a lawyer brought her camera into a girls detention unit.
Juvenile defender Francine Sherman was an amateur photographer, and since creating art was a meaningful part of her life, she thought it might be interesting for the youth she represented to try it out as well. Soon she brought in an artist and educator, Lauren Adelman, to join the experiment. At its conclusion, one incarcerated young woman wasn’t ready to let the experience end there -- so together the trio formed Artistic Noise. That young woman was Minotte Romulus, who currently works as our Assistant Director in Boston running studio art workshops in the very facility where she served time as a teen.
Seven years later our co-founding artist Lauren Adelman expanded Artistic Noise to New York and we became an independent non-profit. Our model has grown beyond studio art workshops to include art therapy and an entrepreneurship program for youth who’ve returned to the community, providing treatment and continuity in their lives. Over the years Artistic Noise has helped hundreds of teens affected by the justice system in both Greater Boston and New York City each year. We remain a small but powerful grassroots organization with a narrowly focused mission to change lives through art.
The three co-founders still serve in the leadership of Artistic Noise: Francine T. Sherman is a board member and Director of the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Project at Boston College Law School; Lauren Adelman is the New York Executive Director and a practicing artist; and Minotte Romulus is the Boston Assistant Director, a former board member, and a former youth participant.
NYC: Harlem Studio
In 2014 we opened our first home of our own, a storefront studio space in Harlem. At this space our A&E teens meet for programming. They also lead free monthly workshops for children (age 5-10) living in Harlem at our space. Beyond these workshops, we use the space and our expertise in public art to catalyze collective action around the issues facing our teens and the Harlem community.
Boston: The Earl Center for Learning and Innovation at Wheelock College
Wheelock College generously provides space to Artistic Noise to hold our community-based program at their Earl Center for Learning and Innovation. We also hold periodic public events here as well. In the future we hope to find a permanent home of our own in Boston.