The Creators Project

How Art Is Transforming a Facility for Miami's At-Risk Youth

How a community activist is providing inspiration and sanctuary through an expanding gallery, library, and educational center.

by Monica Uszerowicz
Dec 30 2016, 8:14pm

Facilities for at-risk youth are heavily enclosed, but often big and sprawling. As such, they've got peculiar acoustics, simultaneously loud (echoing voices, the reverberation of slamming doors) and intensely quiet, with long, silent stretches of hallways. It's dissonant, and it can make the body feel cold.

At one South Florida facility for young men, though, there's a room that's warm and bright. It's colored by murals, dotted with framed paintings, well-stocked bookshelves in each corner. There's a speaker playing John Coltrane and Erykah Badu; teens in the facility spend an hour there, thumbing through books like  I Am Malala and  The Rose That Grew from Concrete. It's raining outside, but in this library-slash-gallery, the fluorescent lighting hits the colors on the wall, reflects them back in a yellowish spectrum, and makes it all look like sunlight.

Creative director DopexGold, known at the facility as Mr. E, works with youths. With the help of library donations and artist friends, Mr. E opened the library about two months ago. "I felt it was a therapeutic form of rehabilitation for the youth," he explains to The Creators Project on a tour of the center. "The youths here are predominately black males. This is the future. I'm dealing with the kings." The goal: bring literature and art to the kids who fall through the system's cracks, bolstering their collective and individual senses of self. To frame an educational initiative as something leisurely means the youths take it upon themselves to read, to examine art, to expand their own consciousnesses if they so choose. Says one young man, "I never really experienced art before I was in here. Now, art is something that makes the time in here go fast, gets my mind back, helps me gain knowledge."

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