It’s so important to encourage the youth of our community to establish goals. But more often than not, little is actually done to teach them exactly how to strategize and execute their goals.
Hope Murals is out to change all that, as it seeks to leverage the power of art to impact the lives of young people by instilling the values of hope and perseverance as critical life skills leading to their success.
With March being Youth Arts Month, #ArtBeyondtheBar is a message put forth by Hope Murals – but not just this month alone. Year-round, they are committed to providing an artistic platform to engage under-served youth considered to be “at-risk” with an opportunity to discover and learn the power of self-efficacy by conceptualizing, planning, preparing, and completing a mural.
Hope Murals is currently facilitating program services at the Miami-Dade County Regional Juvenile Detention Center in collaboration with the State Department of Juvenile Justice and Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Founder of Hope Murals, Executive Director German DuBois III, works closely with these government organizations to identify a group of youth each month to participate in the creation and completion of a mural within the walls of the facility.
The program delivers a program model that introduces youth to contemporary street art, ranging from images found in local communities to cities and towns abroad, exposing participants to the vast culture of murals and graffiti art, which exist on walls far beyond their familiar zip codes.
The program spans four weeks, with a totally new mural completed every month. Presently, Hope Murals has introduced eight murals. And there’s enough wall space to go throughout the facility to foster creation and installment of all new murals for at least two years to come.
We recently invited program founder German DuBois to tell us more about his program:
Q: Why did you create Hope Murals?
DuBois: Hope Murals was created to provide an artistic platform to engage under-served youth considered to be “at-risk” with an opportunity to discover and learn the power of self-efficacy. We want to ensure young people are aware not only of the importance of goals, but that they are given ways to strategize and execute their goals accordingly.
Q: Why are creativity and art skills so important for our youth?
DuBois: Art serves as a natural platform for youth to take safe risks, by exploring their creative side without being threatened by the judgment of others or fearing failure. The Hope Murals model encourages the youth to creatively express their ideas derived from their life experiences and challenges them to envision a future filled with dreams and hopes of better tomorrow.
Q: So why the walls of a correctional institution?
DuBois: Our vision is to transform the dull, meek, intimidating, weather battered institutional walls of the JDC that represent punishment and confinement for the youth who reside there, to a gallery of beautiful, artistic, motivational canvases. Once transformed, these walls are filled with inspirational images, symbols, and words intended to serve as catalyst for all to self-reflect and provoke the critical thought process that lies within, to challenge oneself to examine “Where am I”, “Where have I come from”, and “Where do I want to go once my life continues beyond the bars.”
Q: Do you see a difference in the kids from when they first participate to when they have been participating on a consistent basis?
DuBois: The youth who participate in Hope Murals are impacted immediately. They are engaged from day-one in critical discussions that challenge them to reflect on their decisions and choices, both past and present, as we embark upon the journey to understand the relevance of maintaining Hope and discovering the power of self-efficacy.
We hold youth accountable for their actions week to week and remind them that they are expected to conduct themselves accordingly, so they can continue to participate and complete the mural. Administrators, officers, teachers, and staff at the Juvenile Detention Center have all commented on the changes in behavior and outlook of those youth who complete the program model. We also encourage the youth to contact Hope Murals upon their release from the JDC and offer general transitional support.
Q: Why is working with arts and culture organizations that support youth so important to you?
DuBois: Many of the youth we serve live in difficult circumstances, struggle with severe poverty, and experience high rates of violence. Faced with these challenges daily, often leaves them with little hope of a successful life beyond the bars. In many instances, the programming of Hope Murals is their only engagement with positive adults that encourage them to think, plan, and execute a strategy for personal success. Working with other arts and cultural organizations is not only necessary, but also strategic as we leverage each others’ resources to have the greatest collective impact with the youth we serve.
Q: What inspires you every day?
DuBois: I’ve worked in education non-profit organizations for over 20 years and have witnessed first hand how access to quality educational programming, lead by committed staff that offer positive youth development, can impact a child’s life and inspire them to be their best. I believe serving youth who are disadvantaged and under-served, and often forgotten is my calling – and that is inspirational enough.
Q: Why are creativity and art skills so important for our youth?
DuBois: Art serves as a natural platform for youth to take safe risks by exploring their creative side without being threatened by the judgment of others or fearing failure. The Hope Murals model encourages the youth to creatively express their ideas derived from their life experiences and challenges them to envision a future filled with dreams and hopes of better tomorrow.
About German DuBois III
German DuBois III, a professional educator with over 25 years of experience in nonprofit executive management, has dedicated his career to developing youth, families, and communities. Born and raised in the Bronx, public school product, he brings a wealth of knowledge to South Florida. With a Master’s in Education from Columbia University Teachers College, and a Bachelor’s of Arts from Colgate University, DuBois’ passion for youth development began as teacher at Roosevelt High School in the Bronx, and since then has served in a multitude of leadership roles, in both the private and public education sectors throughout the U.S.
As founder and Executive Director of HOPE Murals, German is also well known for his capacity at leveraging the power of art to affect change in the lives of those to be in the greatest need of support. He lead the Puerto Rico Hope Mural campaign, raising awareness about the ongoing struggles for survival in Puerto Rico, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria; and mobilized muralists during Art Basel 2017 to paint a massive collection of murals and raise funds to support the hurricane relief efforts.
Having presented to hundreds of youth practitioners on both national and international platforms, one of his greatest strengths is his ability to connect to both youth and adults from diverse communities. DuBois brings professional integrity to his work and lives by example, incorporating health and wellness best practices in his daily life.