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University of Iowa News Release

 

March 8, 2007

UI Professor Receives Carver Grant To Help Juvenile Offenders Heal Through Art

Art touches and transforms lives, serving as a creative catalyst and a catharsis.

This belief is what inspired Rachel Marie-Crane Williams, a University of Iowa associate professor in the UI College of Education, to explore creating a sustainable arts program at state-operated juvenile detention facilities. And thanks to a two-year, $63,324 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust of Muscatine, Iowa, to the UI Foundation, Williams will be able to make this arts program a reality for troubled young people in Iowa -- and eventually the nation.

The funding will allow Williams to create two high quality visual arts programs at the Iowa Juvenile Home, a facility operated by the Iowa Department of Human Services based in Eldora, and the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. The State Training School in Eldora houses 200 boys between the ages of 12 and 18, and the Iowa Juvenile Home is home to an estimated 90 adolescents, two-thirds of whom are girls and one-third of whom are boys with special needs.

Although some research has been done in this area, Williams said only a few artists, educators, therapists, criminologists and scholars have conducted studies directly related to arts education and juvenile offenders, which show encouraging results.

"The art room is a place where children can confront their self doubt in a safe space and grow as a person through the attainment of technical skills, critical thinking and the act of creation. I believe that through art programs, students realize that they have something worthwhile to contribute to society," said Williams, who hopes to eventually create a national model for arts education in juvenile correctional facilities through documentation, training and research. She also plans to share this model via the Internet through an online gallery.

Williams said that not only do such programs expand the juvenile offenders' knowledge base about arts, but they reduce episodes of violence and anger, improve communication with peers and adults, increase their participation in education and decrease risk factors such as social alienation, poor conflict management skills and impulsivity.

"Art can help children deal with memories of physical, emotional or sexual abuse through spontaneous creative acts that foster play, creativity and a greater acceptance of the self," Williams said.

This is especially significant, she said, because research shows that 68 percent of girls who enter the juvenile justice system report a history of sexual abuse and 73 percent report a history of physical abuse. Among boys, 47 percent report prior physical abuse and 10 percent report a history of sexual abuse.

In this way, juvenile offenders will not just be shaping clay or ceramics through their participation in this program. They will be re-shaping their lives as well, Williams said.

The project will include creating a ceramics, painting and drawing studio and curriculum for the State Training School in Eldora, collaborating with students and faculty in the UI's Art Education program to make this possible. Students at the Iowa Juvenile Home are lucky to have two expert art educators, Gary Olson and Mike Rickard. Williams and her students in art education will collaborate with these teachers to write and implement curriculum using new technology in the arts that draws on research.

Williams has been researching this topic for more than a decade. In 2001, she received a grant from the National Art Education Association to study visual arts programs in juvenile facilities. She surveyed nearly 500 facilities and wrote extensive case studies on three programs that demonstrated a high degree of success with young people. She has worked with juvenile offenders at the Iowa Juvenile Home on various projects since 2000.

Creating two art labs at the primary juvenile correctional facilities in Iowa will allow her to continue this research and provide a needed service to the state of Iowa. Williams hopes to work with the facilities to design space for the necessary equipment this summer, create the content of the training workshops, identify staff and students who will participate in fall 2007, collect qualitative interview and participant observation data, train staff two times each week in ceramics, and collaboratively facilitate a portion of the arts program at the Iowa Juvenile Home in spring 2008. Summer workshops will be offered to youth beginning in the summer of 2009.

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust was established by the estate of industrialist and philanthropist Roy J. Carver, Sr., of Muscatine. Carver died in 1981. The trust has been supporting the UI since 1987, and it has made gifts to UI programs every year since that time.

Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust gifts and pledges to the university, in addition to gifts made by the late Roy Carver and his widow, Lucille Carver, exceed $127.5 million to date. In addition to gifts to the College of Education, the trust has supported the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine; the UI Colleges of Dentistry, Engineering, Law and Liberal Arts and Sciences; UI Libraries; Hancher Auditorium; UI intercollegiate athletics; student aid; and other UI programs.

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information, visit the foundation's Web site at www.uiowafoundation.org. For more information, please visit the UI Foundation's Web site at http://www.uiowafoundation.org.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois J. Gray, 319-384-0077, lois-gray@uiowa.edu; Program: Rachel Williams, UI College of Education, 319-335-3012, rachel-williams@uiowa.edu.