I want teens leaving jail
to stay connected to the arts.

The Chicago Community Trust

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    In our interviews with the teaching artists at Chicago’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, we learned about the transportation challenges and strict confidentiality rules that keep recently-released youth from showing up at arts organizations’ doors.

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    We asked youth for feedback on paper prototypes of a digital arts platform meant to connect them to art after their detention. They promptly schooled us on exactly where our solutions failed. Youth wanted deep content on the creative disciplines they loved and practiced, not basic information on art forms that they didn’t care about.

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    In another session, teens created prototypes to explain their ideas to peers. When one wrote on a USB drive concept, “Keep up with work,” we realized that this was not about an introduction to the arts, but rather a tool to stay busy and motivated. This led to the site’s name, Drive.

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    Teaching artists also told us they grappled with a heartbreaking reality: youth leaving the JTDC needed so much more than art, including basics like housing, school and mental health services. We designed the final website to integrate the arts in among other resources focused on this population.

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    The USB drive is designed to stand out among the pile of papers that youth are given when they leave the JTDC. It’s also an object of value, making someone more likely to keep it and use it than a paper-based resource.

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    We created the site’s intro video through a mashup of content from the groups that participate in The Chicago Community Trust’s Arts Infusion Initiative. Watch the full video at getdrive.org.

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    In a final “production party,” our team assembled one thousand Drives for delivery to the JTDC.

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This made me think, ‘key to my success.’ If you don’t have a key to start the car, you can’t go, just like if you don’t have this key, you can’t start a positive life.”

Aaron, former incarcerated youth and current youth leader

Outcomes

We created a digital platform with a youth-focused voice. While at the detention center, teens may access computers but not the internet, so we created a hard-coded website that lived on individual USB drives, which could go anywhere with teens. We managed the production of 1,000 of these drives and arranged for delivery to the detention center, where they were handed out to youth upon release.

Thanks to our arts education partners, each drive has in-depth information on seven types of art. Not only that, it also features connections to housing and mental health services, how to expunge a record, how to re-enroll in school and other practical information. That way kids can make sure their basic needs are met while also fostering a deeper connection with the arts.

The website is live at getdrive.org, where it continues to serve as a resource for youth across the city.