NEW YORK -- An exhibition at a Lower East Side art gallery features artists working with the nonprofit, Artistic Noise. Its mission is to encourage creativity from teens and young adults who have been incarcerated, or impacted by the court system, homelessness, and other challenges.
The results by all accounts have been inspiring and amazing. The artists and organizers told their stories to CBS New York, in their own words.
"It's like amazing to see everything up to here. It's really finished and it's really done," Skyy said.
Skyy is a young artist with Artistic Noise, as Imani. Bishop is an artist-in-residence.
"Just to really see up there in the gallery, it's crazy, really empowering. Definitely mind blown," Bishop said.
"It's like looking at myself, like a reflection of myself or what I've created," Imani added.
Calder Zwicky is the executive editor of the 22-year-old organization, which works with system-impacted young people to connect them with art, art making and therapeutic experiences.
"We use the term 'system impacted' to refer to young people whose lives have been touched by the juvenile court system, but also the foster care system, the shelter system, probationary system, mental health care systems, and more," Zwicky said.
"I was a bad teen. I was getting into a lot of things, and I got caught up with a system," Imani said.
"I was getting in trouble. I was getting in a lot of trouble and Artistic Noise came to me and reached out to me in my time of need and really helped me out," Bishop said.
"They don't just help you with just making art. It's not just for art. But if you have outside things that you want to, like, talk about or going through, they help you with those things to help you," Skyy added. "It helps your art immensely."
Zwicky says what sets artistic noise apart from other organizations that are similar is that it pays every single participant for every hour that they're working in the art studio.
"We also, at the end of the year, at our end of year show, take all of the artwork that was created over the past 12 months, we put it on display to the public, and when people buy the artwork, 100% of the proceeds go directly to the young artists who created them," Zwicky said.
"They give you like a sense of family, a sense of motivation, open space just to be yourself no matter what, who you are," Bishop said.
Zwicky says the art and entrepreneurship program meets three times a week at a Harlem, storefront studio, adding, overall, Artistic Noise has collaborated with thousands of young artists, "All of whom are system engaged or system impacted. And we've sold thousands and thousands of dollars worth of art on their behalf."
"Most galleries only show work by artists who have kind of already started their careers, but I think it's so important to show art by people in all different stages of their career," said Hannah Traore, founder of Hannah Traore Gallery. "And it's all important and especially, I think, when you're showing the art of really young people.
Traore said she thinks the art deserves to be shown in a space, like an art gallery, because, "You know, it's at the level. The talent, how powerful the work is. It's at the level of the other artists that I've shown.
"Talking to, you know, these amazing artists makes me so emotional. And that's what art is, and should be. You should have a visceral reaction. You should have an emotional reaction when you're looking at articles. What's the point?" Traore added.
"I came to Artistic Noise in 2019 and I'm still here in 2023, so they gave me a lot, like, you know, like, I've always wanted to be a true artist. And look, here I am. I work as in a gallery with 10 other of my peers, 12 of my other peers, you know? It's beautiful thing that's amazing," Imani said.
Skyy said she also feels inspired.
"This time it worked. This time, it went well this time. So it's like, I have to try again. I can't stop now, you know? I have to tie a tie again," Skyy said.
"I'm gonna be doing it for life. So I already know it's gonna take me, but I hope some of the positive, though, because it's taken me far," Bishop added.
Zwicky says the negative impact of having a court-involved criminal record can be so detrimental to young people who've made very minor mistakes.
"If we can do anything to kind of break that cycle through art and therapeutic experiences, I think we're making the city a better place," Zwicky said.
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