A longtime partnership among LACOE, the County Probation Dept. and the nonprofit Theatre of Hearts/Youth First continues to benefit incarcerated youth through hands-on arts education and literacy workshops.

The partners joined on Feb. 11 to unveil the fruits of the latest effort: two large-scale murals at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey.

"This artwork has beautified our campus and is motivating students to express themselves in constructive and creative ways," said John Cotton, principal of the LACOE-run school at Los Padrinos.

More than 105 students age 14-18 participated in intensive visual art and creative writing workshops held from July to December 2015 led by artist mentors Michael Massenburg and Christopher Wilkinson.

Titled "The Power Within 'We' Transcends All" and "Self-Respect Is My Freedom," the murals feature images, themes and symbols that come from students' original poetry and prose.

"It was humbling and inspiring to witness the amazing contributions of these youth," Wilkinson said.

(Download the student poetry chapbook here.)

Special guest Downey Mayor Alex Saab added, "I'm impressed with the commitment from students to this project. These murals represent the hopes of our children."

The project was funded by the California Arts Council JumpStArts initiative and the National Endowment for the Arts.

To date, the partnership has led to the installation of 15 large-scale student-driven murals at juvenile halls and probation camps throughout L.A. County.

Photo: Joining for the mural unveiling at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall on Feb. 11 are (from left) Alex Saab, mayor, City of Downey; Sheila Scott-Wilkinson, executive director, Theatre of Hearts; Mary Laihee, executive director, LACOE Student Programs; John Cotton, principal, Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall School; James T. Johnson, superintendent, Probation Dept.; and Hector Murrieta, LACOE chief educational programs officer.
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