Create Solutions: Amazon Supports Big Thought’s Creative Solutions Program
It’s an unconventional approach – but after nearly 30 years of Creative Solutions, it’s an approach that has had powerful results.
Time and time again, the award winning arts-as-workforce intervention program has revealed that engaging youth to their own creativity works. Empowering youth to choose their best path and equipping them to create it – it’s an approach that works.
Since 1994, Creative Solutions has been offering this creative approach to youth justice. The program employs adjudicated youth as working artists and utilizes trauma-informed methodology. Youth receive a stipend for their work, and the experience in a job setting equips youth with transferrable skills while channeling their creative energy into performing or visual arts.
The prioritization of social and emotional well-being, workforce preparation and creative expression has proven effective in measurable ways. Creative Solutions has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the state, meaning that students in the program are less likely to end up in trouble again and re-enter the juvenile system.
Data received from Dallas County Juvenile Department on Creative Solutions participants between summers 2017 and 2020 indicates a recidivism rate of only 5.1% for those youth who were at least three years past their successful completion of the program. The recidivism rate is even lower at the one- and two-year post programming marks as well (2.2% and 3.5% respectively).
The benefits go beyond staying out of trouble: students who participate in Creative Solutions gain experience in a job setting, learn new skills and unlock passions. They also see gains in social skills like engagement, communication and empathy.
“Creative Solutions is transformational and has this immediate transformative element that we should not miss,” Kristina Dove, Big Thought’s Creative Voices Director says.
“After our new, first time in-person programming with Tarrant County, I heard this sentiment echoed loud and clear from the probation officers who work with our students on a regular basis. They could not believe how the students were so deeply engaged in their art disciplines, how they were creating, leading, designing, and being just who they are and should be – kids! They were laughing, smiling, rejoicing and feeling successful, because this was their opportunity to shine and be recognized for their shine.”
When preparing for the program in 2020, the Creative Solutions team suddenly faced a new challenge: what would Creative Solutions look like in a virtual setting?
Connecting with 30 youth via their computers would be a change of pace from the dynamic of a shared physical creative space, but the team was up to the task. Throughout the shortened three-week program, the emphasis was on building relationships and getting comfortable collaborating in a virtual space.
“At a certain point with both cities, it was like we didn’t have to be there anymore,” says Sasha Davis, Big Thought’s Creative Lead. “That they could just connect with each other — which is difficult, it’s difficult to build that connection with strangers online that you’ve never met before — that was pretty beautiful.”
On this side of 2020, the Creative Solutions team is excited to return to in-person summer programming in two locations, working with more than 50 students.
This summer, students at Tarrant County Creative Solutions are creating murals inspired by visual elements of a community gathering, while students in Dallas County will work to create a performance piece and album release.
The efficacy of Creative Solutions has caught the eye and support of organizations, including Amazon, with the understanding that direct-delivery programs have a direct impact on students, their families and their future.
“We may be a large global company but we have our roots set firmly in the local communities where our employees live and work,” said Vickie Yakunin, Amazon’s Head of Community Affairs for the North Texas Region. “We’re always looking for ways to make a meaningful impact on youth in our local communities and that’s why we’re honored to partner with Big Thought on Creative Solutions. We know this program prepares participants to be the next generation of leaders.”
Through changes and challenges, Creative Solutions will remain consistent in empowering and equipping each young creator with skills and experiences that have long-term impact.
To learn more about Creative Solutions, click here.