PLAINVIEW, Texas (KCBD) - The outside of Hale County’s juvenile justice building is somewhat barren, with little signage and décor. Walking inside is not the most aesthetically pleasing either.
But past its entrance, down the main hallway, the first right turn brings with it a surprise: a large set of colorful wings with the letters JJAEP in the middle. It is a mural made by a handful of students who are part of the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program of Hale County.
This mural is part of a project made possible by the Contemporary Art Museum of Plainview, located at 219 E. 6th St.
Between two-and-five-days a week, staff members of the museum come to the justice center at the end of the school day to teach the students about art and let them work on their mural, which is inspired by the work of Mexican artist Farid Rueda.
Work on the mural started at the beginning of April, and by the end of the school year – which is next week – they expect to be finished completely, Kelly Alison, executive director of the CAMP, said.
“We didn’t really seek this out, it just sort of happened organically and everybody that liked it started doing it,” Kelly Alison said. “So now we’re really identifying with (the thought) that, ‘I think this is what we want to do – work with these kids.’”
Helping kids who have behavioral issues has recently become a goal with the museum.
The museum staff was sought out by Hale County’s chief probation officer to start this program about two years ago. Originally, Alison and other staffers with the museum would come to the justice center a couple of times a week to teach art classes.
It was later on the idea of the mural project and staging exhibitions with the student’s art came along.
A new goal has also risen on the part of the museum: helping these kids get a unique skill set.
Many times, students who enter the juvenile justice facility are, later on, brought into court and tried as adults if they committed a crime. Most of the time that means a prison sentence is possible.
If they leave with adult records their ability to get a decent job is hindered.
But the good thing about this year is no students are at risk of being sentenced.
Learning an artistic skill set may also help in giving them more expertise in creating art or giving them job skills. Museum staff has taught the kids how to screen print and sold some of their art pieces after some exhibitions.
“(Staff with the justice center) are doing the best with what they have and that is really apparent by the fact that they let us in here at all,” Madeline Alison, museum staffer and Wayland Baptist University student, said. “Because they did not have to let us in here. There’s no, in any way, expectation for any benefit to them as an entity, only to the children.”
But one of the biggest things the staff sees is the more personal side of these students. Many are aware of some of the wrongs they have committed and understand the reasons they were put in the position they are in.
When the students were asked about the meaning behind the wings they responded with an almost simultaneous, “so we can fly out of JJ.”
There are hardly any behavioral issues that both Kelly and Melanie Allison have to deal with. Most of the difficulty is getting them to settle down, which is not unusual in working with teenagers.
More difficulty comes in trying to continue projects like these for now and for the future.
Earlier in the spring CAMP was given a $15,000 grant from the Community Foundation of West Texas, but the supplies cost more than they were expecting.
The museum has now set up a YouHelp campaign to ask for donations that would fund the remaing $1,500 they need.
This is also on top of some of the other plans for next year. They might try this again.
The justice center’s principal is already eyeing the front entry way for the mural wall.
“If you go talk to artist you’re going to find out that they had trouble growing up. They got in trouble growing up and they found art and it helped them,” Madeline Alison said. “Maybe if they do or don’t get anything from it you want to make sure the ones that would get something from it have the opportunity to.”