In January and February of 2017, I was part of a group of teaching artists who went through training under Metro Arts Commission for Restorative Justice & the Arts. As part of a broad effort to move away from incarceration of juvenile offenders in Davidson County, Metro Arts Commission is funding Restorative Justice Arts Residencies in alternative schools, in the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center, in community programs, in court-ordered programs, and in some schools with a high population of students who have had some contact with Juvenile Court.
Teaching Artist Jon Royal and I partnered with TPAC Education and Juvenile Gang Court to offer a 6-week storytelling residency for young men turning their lives around. This residency is the third part of a multi-tiered process for the participants that involves work with a probation officer and counseling services, 12 weeks of classes in the G.A.N.G. (Gentlemen and Not Gangsters) program, and community service. The experience has been a lesson of the power of community and the opportunities for reconciliation when young men, mentors, probation officers, family members, and teaching artists come together in dialogue and art-making around communication and our personal stories.
Jon and I are also working with a theater class at Stratford STEM High School in a similar, storytelling residency exploring personal identity and community.