Just Arts is an eight-week summer intensive program that serves NYC youth who live in neighborhoods that are heavily impacted by mass incarceration and other urban issues.  Supported in part by the City’s Summer Youth Employment Program for inner-city youth, Just Arts is staffed by Columbia students, recent graduates, Community Fellows, and other community partners who use art as a tool to help youth articulate social justice issues in their communities. Students choose between three artistic disciplines to immerse themselves in for the afternoon portion of the program, while spending the mornings in workshops centered on justice issues. The three art forms used in the program are graphic art and design, filmmaking and music production. Besides learning a variety of concrete skills (editing, songwriting, software design programs, etc.), students gain the confidence to creatively articulate their thoughts and feelings on complex issues, while gaining experience in collaborative work to effect change in a nurturing environment. Now completing its second year, the Just Arts Lab has been enthusiastically received by students, facilitators and families alike. We plan to increase the number of youth served in the years ahead.

Since the launch of the initiative:

  • Over 35 students have been educated in several different forms of art
  • Two students returned for the second year of the program as peer mentors
  • Students have gained the confidence to speak and present at other Columbia events including a Barnard Columbia alumni reunion

Over the next year, we will:

  • Continue to seek opportunities to highlight the youth’s work more prominently
  • Invite Just Arts Lab graduates to contribute alongside academics, artists, and social activists during our public events and conferences
  • Pursue additional funding in order to provide year-long opportunities for alumni and new cohorts of students

In collaboration with Audio Pictures, Media Lab, School of Social Work, Legal Defense Fund, CUNY, Bayeté Ross Smith (multimedia artist)

To get involved or donate, please contact: Cheryl Wilkins (cw2555@columbia.edu) or Isaac Scott (iis2106@columbia.edu)