Art as activism: Tamir Rice Foundation and SPACES collect art supplies for justice-affected youth

The Tamir Rice Foundation and SPACES have joined forces to collect art supplies for youth incarcerated inside the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center.

The collaborative art supply drive, running through August 31, is collecting new or gently used art materials to facilitate creative workshops later this year for youth in the detention center.

<span class="content-image-text">SPACES and the Tamir Rice foundation have repurposed and decorated collection bins for individuals to donate art materials.</span>SPACES and the Tamir Rice foundation have repurposed and decorated collection bins for individuals to donate art materials.The project links the mission of the Tamir Rice Foundation—which advocates for justice reform and invests in after-school arts and culture programming for youth—with the artistic missions of SPACES, an international forum for art to be a launch point for educational missions.  

SPACES relies on organizations like Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) to fund projects such as the Detention Center and the artists SPACES works with. This year, SPACES received $34,197 in general operating support from CAC, and CAC has invested more than $850,000 in SPACES since 2008.

“CAC’s aim is to strengthen our community through our investment of public funds into organizations like SPACES,” says Jill M. Paulsen CAC executive director. “The creativity of our community is not only visible in galleries and museums. By supporting projects like this we help make sure more people have what they need to express themselves through art.”

The project was first envisioned by Cleveland artist Lexy Lattimore and the
Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition in 2019. Lattimore proposed facilitating workshops with incarcerated individuals. She received a $6,000 SPACES Satellite Fund grant to implement the project in 2019, the project was put on hold due to COVID-19.

The Coalition is now implementing the project later this year and has been recruiting artists.

“The Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition had been working [for several years] on building relationships with people who have been incarcerated,”
says Molly Nagin, a spokesperson for the Tamir Rice Foundation. “We wanted to do a creative and healing project about the stories of those who were inside the jail, and so we put flyers around the city for folks to get involved, especially artists.”

SPACES and the Tamir Rice Foundation have been working together to build on Lattimore’s initial idea. The groups repurposed four collection bins from a previous SPACES exhibit and Cleveland artists Davon Brantley, Antwoine Washington, and James Quarles designed the boxes with art inspired by the life of Tamir Rice.

Donated materials will be used to facilitate art workshops inside the Detention Center once COVID-19 restrictions have been fully lifted. Excess materials will be donated to the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center when it opens in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood in early 2023.

Art as Healing
Workshops in the Detention Center will be taught by teaching artists who have themselves been impacted by the justice system. “Most of the teaching artists were formerly incarcerated individuals, and a few were justice-affected youth,” explains Nagin. “The intention of the workshop is to create a safe space for youth to talk about experiences as people who are incarcerated, or just about their experience as human beings.”

Leila Khoury, SPACES' creative engagement coordinator, says the project has taken on heightened importance due to COVID-19.

“Covid has amplified the isolation of these kids who are incarcerated, and all sense of normality has been taken away from them,” explains Khouri. “It’s been made even more of an isolating experience. The workshops will be a way to communicate and have an outlet to express themselves with the outside world.”

The goal is to not only provide a healing space for youth, but to amplify their voices and stories to the Cleveland community.

“We hope to eventually turn their artwork into a zine (a noncommercial, limited print magazine),” says Nagin.

Donation and Volunteer Details
The groups have already donated three bins worth of supplies to the Cuyahoga Juvenile Detention Center. The groups have specifically requested art supplies that could be used for youth-friendly projects.

Khouri says that composition notebooks and rubber, bendable pencils are especially needed.
“Rubber pencils are the only type that the youth would be able to keep,” explains Khouri.
Individuals who are interested in supporting the project can express their interest in volunteering through the SPACES or the Tamir Rice Foundation website.

Those interested in donating money to the project can donate online or drop supplies off in bins at the following locations:

  • SPACES - 2900 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113
  • Robinson G. Jones Elementary School (attended by Tamir Rice) - 4550 W 150th St, Cleveland, OH 44135
  • Toby's Plaza - 11440 Uptown Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106
  • Roxboro Elementary / Middle School (attended by Tamir Rice) - 2400 Roxboro Rd #3624, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

About the Author: Sydney Kornegay

Sydney Kornegay is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Aidemocracy, The Columbia Star, and Observatario Economico. She has a master's degree in International Development and Economics from Fordham University and is the director of adult programming at Refugee Response in Cleveland.