Expressive Works from Incarcerated Juveniles Adjudicated as Adults

The Cathedral Arts Project visual arts program at the John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility serves 12- to 17-year-old young men who are jailed while awaiting trial. Due to the severity of their charges, they are being prosecuted as adults, and some have been awaiting trial for more than two years.

Through immersion in the visual arts, this program provides a creative outlet for students that builds their artistic skills and working knowledge of art and art history. In addition to teaching painting techniques, the program emphasizes improvement of communication and social skills, nonviolent self-expression and new avenues for coping in difficult environments. 

Abstract painting is the primary genre of study for this program. PostWorld War II historical examples trace the evolution of nonrepresentational art and provide inspiration. Freedom from the obligation to depict a specific image allows students to explore this expansive model of expression. As they become more familiar with painting techniques, students focus on the decision-making process, which leads to increasingly sophisticated works. They discover they can convey mood and thought through color, line and scale, and learn when and how to “break the rules” without negatively impacting others. 

Students are often asked to work collaboratively not only as a means of team building, but also to broaden their exploration of subject matter and techniques. This fosters a sense of trust and creates a stress-free environment where they can experience the joy that is self-expression and reflection through painting. As the class develops, practices become second nature and students are afforded a refuge of calming creativity from their often chaotic and harsh surroundings. 

Fledgling and sometimes powerful works of humor, absurdity, sadness and beauty emerge. As the young artists see their work leave the jail and gain positive feedback from the community, they begin to consider new horizons and larger possibilities in the world outside their walls. 

For sales inquiries, please contact ejohnson@capkids.org. All proceeds from this collection of works will directly fund the visual arts program at the John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility.

Video credit: Joe Karably, 1186 Pictures, LLC.