Social Justice Youth Development Through the Cre8tive Arts

Founded and directed by Jerry Otero (aka Mista Oh), Cre8tive YouTH*ink is a New York City-based, nonprofit creative-arts social justice youth development organization. We are a multi-disciplinary collective organized to support the healthy developmental trajectory of the next generation of youth leaders.

Crew chief Chris Evan with Mista Oh  during the making of Tropical Storm: Gowanus

We combine a peer-to-peer, “each one, teach one” approach with elements of developmental psychology, attachment theory, social justice youth development, community service and contemporary art to foster the positive and conscious development of our youth members. Our members cultivate a very different, very personal sense of civic and personal awareness. Through these experiences, our youth members increasingly become more conscious and involved citizens — empowered to participate more fully in their own lives and ready to assume leadership roles within their communities.

Cre8tive YouTH*ink squad with supermuralist Sofia Maldonado (pictured at the top)

The key to our success hinges on the active involvement of the senior and founding members of the Cre8tive YouTH*ink group.

These young artists interact directly with the younger teens in very specific ways, in a process known as “bridging.”

Bridging links members in feeling and outlook and focuses on building emotional connections – reinforcing the principle that the group itself is the agent of change. Bridging provides exchanges between and among members that facilitate personal growth and are key to increasing participation and engagement.

Our “each one, teach one” model energizes and helps to build group cohesion and safety, promoting more fuller group participation and facilitating open communication between members, provides positive support, reassurance and encouragement. In this way, our youth leaders themselves “feed” each other by filling in each other’s developmental voids, and fostering each other’s potential for excellence.

“The cornerstone of Cre8tive YouTH*ink’s mission is the idea that we can, through the arts, influence the cultivation of a creative, ethical, critically thinking, and socially engaged urban youth constituency”

To that end, we leverage our access to the world of contemporary art, engaging community partners to help organize exciting cre8tive activities for young people. Described as powerful identity shaping experiences by our members, our projects spark naturally young curiosities and the motivation to understand, connect with, and master their world.

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Cre8tive YouTH*ink members are ready to take on leadership roles in their communities.

We use contemporary art as a vehicle to deeper understanding of our culture and society. Its richness give us another lens through which to consider the world. The dynamic use of materials, methods, ideas, and representations often challenge traditional boundaries and defy easy definition — but which leaves room for young people to find new ways of expressing themselves

Elevating Otherwise Silenced Voices

Contemporary art art lends itself to giving voice to the varied and changing present-day cultural landscape of identities, values, and beliefs. In a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world, it can also be a medium to elevate otherwise silenced and marginalized voices in the service of demanding social change and protest or other expressions of community desire.

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Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, 2015 by Kevin Blythe Sampson

Note the above example of a socially informed practice: see how self taught artist, Kevin Blythe Sampson’s expressionistic “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” bleeds out from the poisonous doctrines that have tainted civilization. The names of places where national injustices have occurred are scratched into the bark. The mangled roots, which form the word “MIASMA” bleed into the Earth and spreading foul poison throughout the land. Hooded Klansmen, at the base of the tree represent catastrophic ideas like the Keystone pipeline and fracking, as well as the GMO corporation Monsanto and the Republican National Convention (which supports these aforementioned problematic environmental issues). The tree is tapped by problems that drain our society of justice and peace. A poached Rhino (with it’s horns cut off and black human feet) reminds us that we are an endangered species as well.

Stay tuned, there’s much more to come.

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