CITY OF LYNN, MA
RAW Art Works
In 1988, RAW was asked by the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services to implement the first statewide art therapy program for incarcerated youth. RAW has helped thousands of teens statewide to utilize art as a trusted vehicle for confronting problems before returning to their communities. We realized how effective prevention could be and decided to find a home base in the community for RAW. Mayor Patrick McManus took it upon himself to advocate for us to transform city-owned space into RAW Space. He also carried the torch in helping to seek and gain our initial funding through a local corporation, General Electric, and thus opened the doors to RAW Space in 1994. When asked his opinion about the program recently, he said "RAW artists have painted our city with hope for a brighter future. I want to make sure they have enough paint!"
In addition to our on-going DYS work, today we offer 14 diverse programs, serving over 100 participants weekly. We have four after-school art therapy groups for youth in housing developments and two different groups for adolescent girls. We provide programming for students from two alternative schools in Lynn. Family art therapy happens on a weekly basis for Spanish-speaking families in a housing project. Disabled adults and elders in two facilities use the arts to focus on concerns of disability and older adulthood, periodically joining youth in inter-generational art workshops. Families participate in art therapy groups at Lynn's soup kitchen.* Women in drug treatment from a near-by residence travel to groups at RAW. Open Studio allows kids who are not able to RAW has grown dramatically over the last five years and our success is based on our skills of responding to the needs, talents and concerns of our participants. In looking no further than our own back yard, we've addressed the cries for positive leadership in our community. We've provided teens with staff mentors, teaching them leadership skills to co-lead groups. As they are paid for their work, they practice solid employment skills and become mentors themselves.
Additionally, our youngest participants gain role models from their own communities and housing developments. This "full-circle" program design makes it possible for us to graduate our kids through a series of developmentally appropriate groups, and ultimately into the Chiefs program to become leaders. Becoming a RAW Chief is seen as a great achievement in the community.
Currently a dozen Chiefs are involved in the program. With the high school dropout rate in Lynn twice the state average, we are proud that in the past two years, not only have all of our Chiefs stayed in school, but 80% have graduated, applied to and been accepted into colleges! We have devised more advanced positions of leadership for those who want to continue their position with RAW, when an immediate college track is not appropriate. The "Pacesetter" position includes not only direct work with kids, but helping to lead college seminars, present pubic lectures and co-lead corporate workshops. This year we are also connecting them with their own long-term career dreams, via community role models. The youngsters with whom the Chiefs work are given a great deal of structure and encouragement in setting and tracking their own goals. In addition to respecting the rules of the house, designed by staff and teens. Chiefs help the groups develop their own guidelines and consistently monitor progress of individuals through "Care Contracts."
Many groups have their own incentive systems, such as earning marbles for achieving goals, which can regularly be exchanged for items at RAW'S "art store." RAW sets high expectations and provides a reliable structure where kids learn the connection between effort and results. As each therapist is a masters level clinician, there are over 45 years of accumulated knowledge and experience in child development at RAW. Additionally, we maintain reciprocal relationships with local social service and mental heath agencies, collaborating to ensure that our children get services custom-designed to their needs.
Our Chiefs learn how to teach youngsters alternatives to at-risk behaviors through arts projects. Teen pregnancy, drug abuse prevention, communication skills, stress and anger management, mediation, acculturation, limit-setting, and "good, bad and confusing touch" are just some of the topics addressed in any given week at RAW. Earlier this week, we accompanied one of our Chiefs, a long-time participant at RAW, to New York's Whitney Museum to celebrate the inclusion of two of her pieces in the show "Childhood Revealed." The change which we have witnessed between the suicidal teen who made this art, and the young woman who's goal now is to become a mental health professional, is poignantly reflected in the letter she gave to us the following day.
Politicians who launch programs often don't see them through on-going growth this is not the case with Mayor McManus. From the inception of the program, he has supported our applications for Block Grant money, participated in art workshops co- lead by our teens, and consistently offered us opportunities to bring our kids and their art to the city. For six years, he has invited us to create art for t-shirts, stickers, murals for press conferences and billboards during Anti-Violence Week. At his encouragement, our kids also participate in parades and art exhibits throughout the year, like Salute to Youth and decorating the rotunda of City Hall, or paint all the trash barrels in the city, allowing them to make their marks all over the city with pride and honor instead of delinquency.
Our financing depends upon a mixture of fee-for-service programming, grant writing, and donations from private and corporate sponsors. Corporate sponsorship is the part of our funding base that we are working the most intensively to increase this fiscal year. We are in our sixth year of receiving a city Block Grant. Massachusetts Cultural Council has been our most significant ongoing funder, supporting our start-up in 1994 through the Youth Reach grant. This year the Boston Foundation has come on as another major funder, through their Arts and Audience Initiative. "Art for me is like a vent to let out my frustrations and a ray of hope to let me know that everything is okay and anything is possible. " RAW Chief attend RAW through one of our collaborators to also be part of this creative community.
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352