Youth Arts Alliance: Creative Healing for Troubled Youth

. May 31, 2018.
Youth Arts Alliance, which serves youth impacted by the juvenile justice system in the area, is an outlet that connects healing and the arts for students.
Youth Arts Alliance, which serves youth impacted by the juvenile justice system in the area, is an outlet that connects healing and the arts for students.

“Youth Arts Alliance (YAA) uses creativity as a tool to alter potential for those in juvenile detention and residential treatment facilities by providing safe spaces for self-expression, collaboration and celebration, profoundly transforming the trajectory of individuals and their impact on society,” according to Heather Martin, YAA director.

YAA provides arts workshops for youth, ages 11-17, residing in Washtenaw County Youth Center, Monroe County Youth Center, Jackson County Youth Center and Vista Maria in Wayne County.

YAA offers creative workshops in a myriad of artistic disciplines including creative writing, theater, movement, visual art, music, animation, fiber, mosaic, Shakespeare, printmaking, video game development, horticulture and expressive arts. These workshops are facilitated by local artists who are hired and trained by YAA in trauma-informed arts practices.

Studies have heralded the relationship between the arts and healing. Art has been shown to be particularly important for youth who have issues with trauma, anxiety, depression and similar hardships.

Studies have heralded the relationship between the arts and healing. Art has been shown to be particularly important for youth who have issues with trauma, anxiety, depression and similar hardships.

Martin states that these youngsters face a myriad of stresses that art helps to heal. “Most of the youth are caught at intersections of societal stresses: generational substance abuse, incarcerated relatives, sexual assault, school expulsions, domestic violence, meeting extensive justice system requirements, access to public transportation, on and on,” explained Martin. The young artists report success with expressing themselves through art. The names of the teens interviewed below have been changed to protect their privacy.

“Cat”

“I am an addict in recovery and art has been so helpful in keeping me grounded and focused,” said Cat. A high school student, Cat loves to paint, draw, make collages, and create all kinds of art. “I like art because it gives me the chance to show the world what I see and places that I want to be.” She has been doing art since 1st grade and plans on continuing to create art and poetry.

“Daniel”

“I love to draw because it takes me to another place and helps me think,” said Daniel, also in high school, who added that art makes him feel “special and one-of-a-kind” and helps him with stress. “It is therapeutic for me because it allows me to pause for a minute and refocus and express myself,” said Daniel.

“Marvin”

Art means the world to Marvin, who is in middle school. “I write poetry and draw to free my mind and soul while expressing and advocating for myself,” said Marvin. Art helps comfort him: “I have lost a lot of people and I grew up alone. Through all the chaos I have had writing and drawing. It is all I have really had, and still do.” Marvin also has been doing art as long as he can remember and wants to continue to create art forever. “I feel as if I am actually doing something right and helping others,” said Marvin. “I feel as if my art separates me from everybody else.”

These students appreciate YAA’s assistance in the creation of their art. “YAA allows us to express ourselves and to have our voices heard. It helps us to treasure the fact that we are the next generation and that we matter,” said Marvin.