The first Art Dojo was created in an old basement that we reclaimed in Kennewick, WA at the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center.
It might go without saying that a lot of the students that we see inside of the juvy have childhood trauma and zero resources for therapy.
One time, a student said to me "mister, rich kids go to counseling, poor kids go to juvy." That sad fact motivated me and a small team to do something special
We wanted to give our students a new incentive but also to teach them that "healing begins with communication" and that making art builds resiliency.
This is where it gets interesting. The first Art Dojo project grew into something that we didn't expect!
Art Dojo #1
Kennewick, Washington - 2018
Basement of the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center.
Nisha Franco is a USA Today Bestselling Author of Paranormal Romance and an Arts Activist. She is the Program Coordinator for HopeBuilders, a volunteer program promoting art and mental health awareness in Juvenile Detention Centers. In March 2020, the Pasco City Council selected Nisha to serve on the City of Pasco Art Commission as an Art Professional.
Website for more information www.serpentinecreative.com
Nisha, aka Data, aka my sidekick, aka my left brain, aka the one holding this thing all together, aka my good and dear friend that joined forces with me in 2018 to work this vision.
The goal of The Art Dojo is to serve as a safe and creative environment where people can express their thoughts and feelings through art.
If those thoughts and feelings are joyful or painful, then the Dojo is where we can begin processing them creatively and artistically.
Here on the right, a student paints a large painting of spring flowers at sunset during Art Dojo incentive.
their stories and poetry
The students that helped create the first Art Dojo created a book of poems and a mural that reads "Heal" in the hallway of the Juvenile Justice Center.
Art Saves Lives
Healing begins with communication
art saves lives
healing begins with communication
don't waste your pain(t)
respect self and others
Clenched fists do no building
follow the hundred year plan*
center and uplift youth voices
Art Dojo #2
Pasco, Washington - 2019
the community hope wall
Keeping true to the guiding principles of
The Art Dojo, we decided to "center community" by dreaming up a mural and a holiday.
The students created an image of a rose bursting through the concrete to represent hope in our community despite all of our collective struggles.
The image on the left is the final product. We hired a local muralist of color from the community to paint the Community Hope Wall.
The location of the hope wall was thought to be controversial due to an unarmed mentally-ill Latino man being shot and killed by the Pasco Police Dept.
The injustice caused a communal wound. Creating this mural at this site was to spread a guiding principle that "healing begins with communication".
Community Hope Wall at Vinny's Bakery in Pasco, WA
The hundred year plan & Pasco Day of Hope
Hardware & software
There are two main components to The Art Dojo; the hardware and the software.
"The hardware" is the actual physical location of an Art Dojo, like the one's mentioned above. But the hardware can also be any kind of physical location that you choose for your Art Dojo. It can be temporary (like a pop-up Art Dojo) or permanent, such as the juvy or the hope wall.
"The software" are the classes, programs, and activities that the community chooses to run out of their Dojo.
One example of "software" is the art class/project that we held inside of the Juvenile Justice Center that eventually produced the Community Hope Wall. Ultimately, the idea is not to limit ourselves or what the Art Dojo can be.
Below are the 4 current "software" programs for The Art Dojo: Leadership Academy, Community Engagement, Public Speaking, and Visioneering. These 4 elements are what make The Art Dojo unique and one of a kind.
These 4 areas of focus aim to build character, public speaking skills, build community leadership and create a skillful visionary. **Click on an icon below to find out more**
Leadership academy/don't waste your pain(t)
Don’t Waste Your Pain(t) is an 8-week project-based youth leadership academy that begins with us learning how to transform our personal stories into personal power and ends with us directing that collective power into a creative project that inspires and uplifts the communities that we are a part of.
Throughout this academy students will; see successful examples of youth-led creative community projects, learn strategies for engaging one’s own community, begin to build your own mental health tool kit, enhance interpersonal communication skills, enhance written and verbal skills, learn the “hundred year plan” and why it is important to center youth voices, and much much more...
Art Dojo #3
East Pasco, Washington - 2020
One of the most difficult times to bring ourselves to create or produce anything in life is when we are impacted by our traumas.
The idea to not "waste our pain(t)" has layered meaning.
Don't waste the paint or the life experiences that you have endured and continue to endure, turn them into something creative.
It doesn't have to be art, it can be anything, it just doesn't have to be the end.
I think it would be an understatement to say that 2020 has come with a whole lot of challenges and pain to process. It's why creating this 3rd Art Dojo was so meaningful.
It put all of the guiding principle's to the test!
The Art Dojo is all about communities coming together to transform spaces into creative hubs that build resiliency in our youth and youth workers.
The Hundred Year Plan
If you have a one year plan, plant rice.
If you have a ten year plan, plant a tree.
If you have a hundred plan, teach a child...