“Re-Weaving Juvenile Justice” to address school-to-prison pipeline
Metro Arts is pleased to announce that the city of Nashville is one of 17 finalist cities in the running for a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies for temporary art projects addressing a civic issue. There were over 150 applicants.
If selected, Metro Arts will work with the city to create Re-Weaving Juvenile Justice, conceptualized by award-winning local artist Stephanie Pruitt-Gaines. Re-Weaving Juvenile Justice will forefront juvenile justice issues through community-based art processes and temporary public art that offer an entry point for critical conversations and civic activation to imagine a better future for all Nashvillians. The proposed project would engage more than 10,000 residents in creating large-scale public art installations of woven poems and sculptural nets. Weaving symbolizes a communal process of advancing restorative arts and creating equitable communities, employing nets as a metaphor for safe landing, protection, and connection.
“The goal is to activate our community in the creative process of making Nashville a safer and more just city where young people thrive. The arts help us imagine possibilities and see connective pathways through complex issues,” said Pruitt-Gaines. “Citywide weaving bees will yield massive, poetic sculptures composed of thousands of Nashvillian’s ideas.” Pruitt-Gaines envisions that the two-year public art making process will cue a shift from the individual to the collective.
According to a 2018 Brookings Institution study, one in seven African American men are incarcerated in North Nashville—the highest in the nation – and child poverty in this ZIP code is 42%, compared to 14% nationally. Meanwhile, when Interstate 40 was built in late 1960s, 650 North Nashville homes were demolished and 1400 North Nashville residents were displaced. The remaining real estate value was decimated by 30% and compounded the loss of familial and communal wealth. This was done intentionally by white planners to avoid having Interstate 40 be close to Vanderbilt University or affect property values in its neighborhoods. Brookings says that efforts to impact education, employment, housing, and other outcomes may miss a significant part of the problem: that wealth and opportunities were extracted by bigoted transportation and housing policies. Reparations must address what caused the damage in the first place: systemic racism.
Judge Sheila Calloway and Court Administrator, Jennifer Wade met with Ms. Gaines and are well into the planning stages for the project. “As the Juvenile Court Judge, I see these intersectional issues affecting our youth and families on a daily basis,” said Judge Calloway. “As a court, we understand that the problems started way before the youth is in court.” To address these interwoven complexities, Judge Calloway is pioneering the Nashville Youth Campus for Empowerment, a family-oriented, trauma-informed center that supports the intrinsic value of all community members and incorporates restorative arts into formal and informal programming.
“Restorative justice and arts are uniquely positioned to bridge intersectional needs for the affected communities,” continued Calloway. “The arts expose youth to new experiences and ideas, as well as help them develop their identity, hopes, and dreams while providing mentorship and modeling. This alignment also helps them avoid the stigma of a delinquency conviction, which can negatively affect future educational and job opportunities, while providing them with access to high-quality services.”
Campbell West, Metro Arts Public Art Committee Chair, agrees that this deeply impactful initiative addresses several of Mayor Cooper’s priorities for vibrant and more equitable Nashville. “The arts have been a place for communities to come together and ask critical questions,” said West. We can all work together to reimagine solutions for dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline in ways that also impact education, employment, housing, child and youth development, physical and mental well-being, and more. The time to act is now.”
This fall, Bloomberg Philanthropies will select up to 10 cities to execute their projects over the next two years. Visit www.publicartchallenge.bloomberg.org to learn more.