Incarcerated: Art as Protest

Incarcerated: Art as Protest

Nancy Konrardy reports on her six week fall residency at the Pathfinder Program at the Lancaster County Juvenile Detention Center


After three and a half years we have built a solid six-week curriculum. This curriculum remains process-oriented, with an approach to art as a vehicle of expression, inspiration and change for the student.

November and December went quickly, as usual. Reaching the sixth week, my son and partner Aaron, Dirk Baker, a Pathfinder teacher, and myself had forged a bond with the students through art over the preceding intense five weeks. It had been hard-focused work and we werfe in the swing of things. In this last week we started reminiscing, recounting students who have moved on, or exchanging observations about students who have been in the program the longest. We find ourselves wishing the program could go longer, and so do the students. We hear phrases coming rapidly, “Oh this ends?” “When will you be back?” “Now what will I do.” “Art makes me more relaxed.” “I look forward to it, now what?” “This was fun.”

Yes, fun –  everything else. Sometimes that “everything else” can be a lot when you are a kid inside the juvenile detention center for weeks or months, having no idea what will happen when.

Our last project, which we have begun to now call a culmination project, was Persuasive Posters. Persuasive posters by artists such as Corita Kent were introduced to the students as an opportunity for them to discover how their voices to be heard non-confrontationally. Their goal was to persuade someone to take a moment to consider what the artist feels is important. Art is optimum for this purpose because you get people to look, get hooked and ask questions without even knowing it. In this project the students were able to apply the skill and knowledge about art expression that they have experienced through the program.

The piece you see here was done by a student who was with us through the entire 6 weeks. There are many who connect a personal story and or trauma in this opportunity to be heard. On the last day of the project, a social worker who now comes to as many of our classes as possible, sat down with this young man. She touched his hand and referenced the poster in front of him saying, “So this is how you feel?”

This is only one story of the truly intimate, honest moments that occur in our program every day!