This Summer 2017, Arts Street started an amazing adventure into culture, identity and self-reflection. We Still Live (WSL). This community-based art project worked with youth to combat gang recruitment by exploring self-identity and cultural heritage through art. We collaborated with 46 Arts Street@YEA youth, artist Thomas Evans and Denver gang prevention programs. Participants spent 6 weeks exploring their identity and how to build community wealth through visual and spoken word art and youth-led community initiatives.
This collaborative project was inspired by a survey given to youth that revealed gang violence was the primary issue in their communities. According to the Department of Justice, young people get involved in gangs due to a “need for family” and “generational involvement.” It became clear that to strategically respond to this issue, youth need pro-social activities that address elements of gang participation and provide youth the opportunity to explore cultures and collective creativity.
After their 6 month intensive, students came away with a better knowledge of how to be a part of their community and what cultures exist in Denver. In the fall, these same youth will receive the results of their own DNA test and begin to use different art techniques to determine how they relate to their heritage.
We were so impressed by these young peoples’ hard work this summer and look forward to seeing its completion in the fall.