California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

October 16, 2008Mary Beth Barber

Background Information: The Minerva Project

Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center, Alameda County Arts Commission

Quilts created by teenaged girls participating in the Arts Education Program at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center's Youth Detention Facility

Presented by the Alameda County Arts Commission and the California Arts Council

The qualities of the Roman Goddess Minerva -- courage, strength, and wisdom -- are infused into the California state seal and the theme of the Governor and First Lady's Conference on Women and Children. Through a unique project in Alameda County, youth detained at the County's Juvenile Justice Center participate in a comprehensive arts education program. For this specific project, teenaged girls created their own interpretations of the image of Minerva.

Artist Marion Coleman led this project. Each girl reflected on the characteristics of the goddess Minerva and talked about women who exhibit courage, strength, and wisdom. The youth were encouraged to think about these traits within themselves, and each girl created a design plan on paper for her Minerva piece. The girls selected fabric pieces for the background and the major shapes that reflected their design as well as their individual styles and personalities; each girl designed her own quilt.

Like a traditional quilting bee, in which everyone works collaboratively, the girls completed their own design and conducted the "piecing" (the attachment of the top layer of fabric) while Coleman completed the "quilting" (the sewing through of the top layer, the internal batting and the back panel). During the three weeks in which this project was conducted, over 40 girls participated. Over the course of the project, some girls worked in teams to embellish the artwork initially designed and pieced together by others in the program.

The Minerva Project at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center is an example of the potential for arts programs to help juvenile detainees find their own courage, strength, and the wisdom to make positive changes in their lives, and to be leaders in their families and communities.

The California Arts Council is working with arts agencies throughout the state to strengthen our communities by providing funding support to State-Local Partnership grantees like the Alameda County Arts Commission and its Arts Education Program at the Juvenile Justice Center.

The Minerva Project was conducted from September 20-October 10, 2008 at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center, San Leandro. Minerva Project Instruction by Marion Coleman, Artist. Minerva Project Management by Rachel Osajima, Alameda County Arts Commission. Documentary Still Photography by Ruth Morgan, Director of Community Works West. Documentary Video by Maggie Simpson, Decomp Film Productions. Photography of Artwork by Sibila Savage Photography.

The Arts Education Program at the Juvenile Justice Center is a project of the Alameda County Arts Commission, presented in partnership with the Alameda County Probation Department and the Alameda County Office of Education. Program implementation and coordination is conducted by Community Works West. The Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center and the Arts Education Program were established by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors with the opening of the Juvenile Justice Center in 2007. The Alameda County Arts Commission's Arts Education Program is supported by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the Alameda County Probation Department, the Alameda County Office of Education, the California Arts Council, and tax deductible donations given through the Foundation for the Arts in Alameda County.

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About the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center and the Alameda County Arts Commission

Following the opening of the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center in 2007, the Alameda County Arts Commission established the Arts Education Program. Working in partnership with the Probation Department and the Alameda County Office of Education, this program brings professional artists into the detention facility to work with the detained youth. The visual and performing arts programs are integrated into the school-day curriculum as well as the after-school programs. This program is based on the belief that the arts are an essential part of every successful and thriving community. Viewing and creating artwork can help all young people, families, and community members understand diverse perspectives and common experiences as well as imagine individual transformation and future opportunities.

The Arts Education Program was founded with an initial budget of $300,000. These funds are being used for the first three years as seed money to establish the program. The funds were generated from the County's "2% for Art" public art ordinance. The Alameda County Arts Commission is seeking new funders to support this program. Donations to support this program can be made through the Foundation for the Arts in Alameda County, a private nonprofit organization created to support the programs of the Arts Commission.

The Alameda County Arts Commission is a division of the County of Alameda. Alameda County, California's sixth largest county, occupies 813 square miles on the east side of the San Francisco Bay Area. 1.8 million people live in the Alameda County cities and communities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Castro Valley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fairview, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Oakland, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Sunol and Union City. The Juvenile Justice Center is a state of the art facility that includes a 360 bed detention facility with an adjacent Court Facility that houses 5 courtrooms and offices for the District Attorney, Public Defender, Behavioral Health Care, Court Clerk, Sheriff, and Probation Department. The detention facility is a short-term, secure, residential facility for youth between 12 to 18 years old, where the average length of stay is 23 days.

The day-to-day regimen is built on youth development principles including daily reflection, academics, health education, behavioral services, and the arts. Youth are also preparing for the inevitable transitions they face: reuniting with their families, moving on to additional treatment, or being placed in group homes or other outside facilities.

The Alameda County Arts Commission is dedicated to improving the quality of life in Alameda County by nurturing a thriving environment for the arts and for cultural activities; promoting economic opportunities for Alameda County's artists and arts organizations through programs such as arts grants, public art, and arts education; encouraging public participation in the arts; and actively advocating for the arts.

For more information about this project or to make a donation to support this program, please contact:

Rachel Osajima, Executive Director
Alameda County Arts Commission
1401 Lakeside Drive, Suite 603
Oakland, California 94612
Phone 510-208-9646

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