From troubled youth to working artists

ve6In 2001, celebrated artist Favianna Rodriguez co-founded the EastSide Arts Alliance (EAA) and Visual Element in Oakland, CA, to train young artists in the tradition of muralism. The San Antonio neighborhood, where EAA resides, is one of Oakland’s most diverse communities and is a historical landmark filled with lively music, vivid murals and rich culture that poured into, not only the center itself, but the Visual Elements program as well.

Over half of the at-risk/at-promise students of Visual Elements are juvenile offenders involved in graffiti-related violations. Rodriguez and other third-world artists and EAA staff, have reintroduced these at-promise youth to a vibrant world of colors and culture which gives them an opportunity to transform their community as well as their lives from a unique perspective. In learning about the culture and history of graffiti, as well as the craft itself, these students now have the freedom to make their home a living, breathing work of art.

ve5The interesting thing about this program and what also makes it very unique is the fact that through curriculum, the staff facilitates the transformation of troubled youth into working artists. Some of the curriculum includes aerosol art, social activism, graphic design, portfolio development, business etiquette and mural production.

As the website states, “Visual Element presents a unique opportunity for non-profit organizations, community-based groups, schools, and local vendors to beautify their surroundings while funding a youth enterprise. And finally, it promotes healthy intergenerational relationships between youth and caring adult artists.”ve4

More information can be found at the website

Author Profile

I grew up on the border of San Leandro in Sobrante Park, deep East Oakland. I am a student at Laney College but I am in the process of transferring to Mills College, the all women’s university in Oakland. There, I will be majoring in Ethnic Studies with a minor in Women’s Leadership. At Laney, my major was English.
I am an avid reader and lover of all things poetic. I enjoy music of all kinds, art, great food and spirits, traveling across the country and abroad and having unique experiences and sharing them with anyone willing to listen.
This project sparked my interest because the city of Oakland is so misunderstood. Oakland is a large and diverse city and because of the racial and economic makeup, I believe that it is easy for people to prejudge it.

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