Art Is An Anti-Violence Program

Art saves lives.

For many of our young people, they crave to discover their own artistic expression, but sadly, they do not have the means to do so. It neither exists in their school, or it won’t continue when they transfer. And without the necessary support system to elevate their craft, they will give up, their budding passion gone, a way of them seeing the world with new eyes dissipated, and then the streets become that more attractive to them.

Art should not be viewed as an option, as the first program that gets eliminated when it’s time for budget cuts. You may be saving money in the short term, but in the long term you are jeopardizing the lives of our young people. You are endangering their lives when you cut the very creative expression that young people need to stay sane, whole, and functional. Our young people are fighting for their lives that are fraught with toxicity, from their homes to their neighborhoods, to their schools. Too often they lack other options to channel their frustrations, anger, pain, and deep hurt.

Visualize what your life would be like, if you had no recorded and live music to listen to, no plays and movies to see, no art in your home, no clubs to dance, and no books of fiction and poetry to read. Our young people will grow up to become the ones to fill your lives with art, so why would you take art away from them now? Why would you not be compelled to fully invest in their passions to create something beyond what their existence is now? Why would you not want to partner in being the change they want to see in the world now?

Art is an anti-violence program. It is the difference between paint on a canvass, and blood in the street. It is the difference between holding an instrument and holding a gun. It is the difference between writing words in a journal and placing fingerprints on a blotter at central booking. It is the difference between break dancing on stage and breaking someone’s bones in an alleyway.

It is heartbreaking enough for our young people in our classrooms to suffer without air conditioning on sweltering days, and without heat during freezing days, to be exposed to school buildings with lead, mold, asbestos and other unsafe materials, to eat lunches that administrators would not dare eat. And then to not have any creative means to vent how they feel, and to imagine a life beyond what they experience day in, and day out, makes them feel they have no way out.

There is a crystal-clear solution to curtail violence in our beloved city, and to bring a sense of wholeness to our young people. Comprehensive arts in our schools is not a theory, or a medical trial, or an impact study, or a needs assessment. It is a 100% percent guaranteed action plan. It is absolutely guaranteed to produce results. Fully fund a continuous art education program for our school students, and I guarantee we will not only witness a change in our youth and in our city, but we will be saving lives.

I have walked down the halls of the Department of Juvenile Services and witnessed beautiful art hanging on the walls made by our young people. It was heartbreaking to me, not because the art was not beautiful, but that it is in a place where young people get locked up. We should have our young people making beautiful art where they are educated, so they will never have to make it in a place where they are incarcerated.

 

Ron Kipling Williams