Teenagers detained in facilities in Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services are being given opportunities to express themselves through art.
Lisa LaPrade, the director of the department’s recreational programming and creator of the Changing Habits and Making Positive Strides program, told WTOP that there’s a lot more going into the teens’ paintings, sculptures and collages than vibrant colors or powerful messages.
LaPrade explains that some of the students were skeptical at first about the benefits of taking part in an art program, but said once they were told that the art might be auctioned off to buyers who would have that artwork in their homes, “That’s when they really got excited about it.”
Under the program plan, funds raised by the sale of the artwork would go toward any restitution owed by the juveniles. LaPrade said the teenagers were told, “If you owe restitution, we have to take care of our responsibilities first.”
LaPrade said one juvenile told her he wasn’t thinking of the money, but really enjoyed the chance to find a creative outlet.
“That’s what we want to do, we want to introduce them to positive options,” she said.
As the juveniles work on their projects, LaPrade said they develop new ways of reflecting on themselves and the world around them.
“And over the years, I’ve seen some amazing, amazing artwork,” LaPrade said. “Every year they just continue to impress me.”
The program is made up of a variety of activities, including competitions in public speaking, academics and athletics.
“This is just one of the ways that we get to say, ‘you know what? I knew you had it in you — you just needed the time to shine,'” LaPrade said.