Worcester MA Arts program offers troubled youth a chance at creativity

Juvenile Probation Officer Fiona Bycroft-Ryder stands in front of Arts Alternative, an exhibit featuring the work by young people in the juvenile court in the Worcester Trial Court lobby. Photo by Christine Hochkeppel.

Juvenile Probation Officer Fiona Bycroft-Ryder stands in front of Arts Alternative, an exhibit featuring the work by young people in the juvenile court in the Worcester Trial Court lobby. Photo by Christine Hochkeppel.

The paintings, drawings and sculptures on display last week in the Worcester Trial Court lobby reflected a wide range of artistic abilities, but the young artists who created them all had one thing in common.

Each has had some involvement with the Worcester County Juvenile Court and each was referred by a judge or probation officer to Arts Alternative, a collaborative effort of the juvenile court and the Worcester Art Museum.

The idea behind the program, now in its fifth year, is to offer troubled youths, from truants and runaways to those deemed delinquent by reason of criminal activity, an introduction to art as a means of positive development and as an option to violence, substance abuse and other negative behavior, according to Fiona Bycroft-Ryder, a juvenile court probation officer.

Participants, ranging in age from 9 to 18, meet once a month at the Worcester Art Museum, where volunteer docent Ginny B. Powell-Brasier takes them on a guided tour and talks with them about specific works of art that are part of the museum’s collection. Then they spend about 90 minutes in a studio with an art instructor doing hands-on activities.

The works of art that result are eventually displayed in a community setting, like the art museum or the courthouse. Most of the participants, many of whom come from low-income or unstable environments, had never been to the art museum before becoming involved in the program, according to Ms. Bycroft-Ryder.

“But what’s nice is we find some young people keep coming to the program even when they’re no longer on probation. Sometimes they’ll bring a friend of a family member,” she said.

The museum has offered scholarships in the past to participants who “have shown artistic talent and want to get more out of it,” Ms. Bycroft-Ryder said.

An exhibit of the participants’ creative efforts was on display last Thursday in the first-floor lobby of the Worcester Trial Court at 225 Main St. Some of the artwork is expected to remain there through the end of this week. The works included paintings, pastels, pencil drawings, clay sculptures, collages and murals.

About 40 people attended the April 20 reception.

Follow the link for the full article.