Chicago Public Schools is the third largest school district in the country (408,000 students), serving predominantly high poverty (83.6%), African American (46.2%) and Hispanic (41.2%) students. Conflict amongst CPS students leading to their demise has produced an outcry from parents and community members citywide for solutions to this current epidemic of youth violence in the city of Chicago.
Bringing an end to the senseless victimization and killing of CPS students throughout the city requires a transformation of the minds, spirits, and hearts of fellow classmates and community members. One obstacle to this is “social distance”. Restorative justice is about connecting people, building relationships and reducing “othering”
Value in the Process
Art has an important role to play in reducing social distance. It requires a rethinking of how we communicate. Art compels us to elevate and respect the subject, recognizing that the artist and the subject co-create the work. Genuine communication frees us from the restraints of verbal models and allows for visual models that activate the viewer’s imagination. Through the collaborative art making process, we focus less on our individual creativity and uniqueness and more on what can bring us together as a human community.
“Real” justice must be about repairing harm and rebuilding community. Restoring the P.I.E.C.E.S. seeks to address harms and needs, to identify obligations for repairing harm, and to involve those who have a stake in the resolution.
Who has been harmed?
What are their needs?
Whose obligations are these?
What are the causes of this?
Who has a stake in this?
What is the process these stakeholders need to repair the harm and find resolution?
The answers to these questions inevitably identify what is missing. The bottom line is that whether the missing pieces are parents, educators, alumni, community volunteers, elected officials, local businesses or the media, the resolution relies on restoring the whole. The creative process initiates a healing that must build on three values: respect, humility and wonder.
Inviting all stakeholders to collaborate in the creation of a Public Artwork allows students to work along-side community in that process and experience themselves as valued contributors, while the finished artwork represents a galvanizing experience that will reverberate in hearts and minds well after its completion and serve as a constant reminder of what is possible through non violent self expression and cohesiveness.