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A world of art

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SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

If all goes according to play, this spring FutureSelf will begin an unprecedented collaboration with local social services providers to explore projects that will foster creative expression and renewed self-esteem for troubled and at-risk youth.

The nonprofit's "ARTernatives for At-Risk Youth Symposium" will bring administrators and staff members from social service agencies together with arts educators to exchange ideas about alternatives to the more traditional punitive approaches of redirecting teens' behavior.

"The arts have been shown to be not only the most effective means of reaching at-risk youth, but the most economical as well," said Wendy Mike, the director of FutureSelf, which is devoted to helping at-risk youth discover the transformational powers of art and creativity.

"It costs about $146 per day to detain a youth and about $190 per day to incarcerate a youth," Mike noted. By contrast, a weekend-long FutureSelf workshop costs $150 per youth, per month.

And the payoffs are undeniable: Studies show, for example, an 85 percent reduction in recidivism for at-risk youth who become involved in arts programs.

"The implications of that are huge," said Mike, pointing out that the initial symposium is largely designed to initiate a dialogue between the arts community and social services organizations and "plant a seed for the long term." Both sides, she emphasized, have a great deal to teach each other.

"This is for administrators from different areas to come together and see what's possible in the long term," said Mike of the event, which is still in the planning phases. "This is the opportunity for people to really create something."

--By Noel Black

photo by Sean Cayton

FutureSelf is a recipient of a grant from the Independence Community Fund, a charitable arm of the Independent. This is the fifth of a series profiling this year's seven recipient organizations.

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