Thesis Update:Visual Art as Restorative Justice

Hello. My name is Alex Whedbee. I am a current graduate student at the City College of New York in the Art Education Department and coordinator of City Art Lab, an after-school art program held at CCNY, a freelance museum educator, and artist. I enjoy eating delicious meals, exploring the city on my bicycle, and taking on new ventures and challenges.  alex-photo

Art has always something that has been present in my life and my journey in becoming an art educator has been an amazing experience. I studied Art Conservation and Restoration and made a decision to apply to the Art Education Program because I wanted to learn, to teach and make a positive impact with people, instead of only working on a piece of art. My opportunities to teach and work with high school students as an art educator and after-school program coordinator has shown me the positive outcomes and abilities of young adults to grow and learn new skills within a supportive a environment and community. From my experiences working with high school students and the coursework at City College, I’ve been thinking about how else the arts can provide positive change in our youths’ lives, which has led me to my interest into exploring visual arts as restorative justice.

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This semester,  I am interested in exploring and researching the ability of visual arts as restorative justice for youth. My thesis research will be based on a few NYC arts-based programs for participating court involved youth who support the development of self-efficacy, self-empowerment, and vocational skills. My goal is to research, observe, and interview staff and hopefully, past youth participants of these arts organizations and their programs.

I am excited to begin my interviews and observing different arts-based outreach programs. In the next couple weeks I will go and observe programming at Artistic Noise, an NYC and Boston based organization.  I hope that this research will help to extend my understanding of the penal system and restorative programming provided to justice-involved youth in order to advocate for more alternative diversion programs and the ability of visual arts to create invaluable skills. Another organization I intend to explore is, Young New Yorkers, which has an 8-week arts based diversion program for youth ages 16-17 years old who are being sentenced as adults. This program provides youth with weekly art classes, discussions with peers, and a youth organized art show. I am excited to see how my research will further extend and to learn about the support and development that these arts-based organizations provide.

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