AT-RISK YOUTH have voices too, and InLiquid Art and Design has created an exhibition that reflects those voices.
One of them belongs to Harmony Ellerbe, 14, a seventh-grader at Avery D. Harrington School in West Philadelphia.
Harmony, 14, said her art class had inspired her to write "Violence," a poem about a girl who was raped as a child, who lost her father to gun violence, whose brother was jailed and whose mother was addicted to drugs.
One little girl in a life full of violence, watched her dad get shot, seen her brother go to jail. Living in hell.
And that's just the beginning.
"The poem was about something that was going on with my friend in her life," Harmony said. "I felt bad for her and I was thinking about her.
"In art class we talked about violence, and it just came to me."
She read "Violence" to classmates and other artists at a preview of the exhibition yesterday.
The Traveling Youth Art Exhibition - on display until April 30 at Family Court, on Vine Street near 18th - features art by more than 25 girls and boys, each portraying a vision of community and home.
"Art is a really necessary way of expressing yourself, both positively and negatively," said Rachel Zimmerman, executive director of InLiquid, a nonprofit organization on American Street near Master, North Philadelphia.
The exhibition contains work by students at Edison High School, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Guild, the Harrington School and a program of Moore College of Art. Each visual or poetic artist has experienced the criminal-justice system, spent time in detention or been affected by it.
"I do a lot of social-justice art with my students. It gives students a voice," said Leila Lindo, an art teacher at Harrington on, Baltimore Avenue near 53rd Street.
"I like them to do art about topics that are important to them, and a lot of the time the things that are important to them have to do with social justice and their rights."
Lindo said that Harmony's poem shows how art can be therapeutic. The school's display, "My Neighborhood, My Community and Me," features collages that show boys and girls in their communities.
"It gives students the opportunity to open up and lets them know that they don't have to suppress how they feel and show people their artistic abilities," Harmony said of the exhibition.
The Sheriff's Office is sponsoring the exhibition, to support innovative programs that provide second chances to young people, some of whom have been in detention. InLiquid is putting on the exhibition in partnership with the Juvenile Law Center.
"The vast majority of these young people are from neighborhoods with known gangs, high crime rates and urban blight; they need creative options - including art programs, education and job opportunities," Sheriff Jewell Williams said. "I'd rather see the youth packing pens, paintbrushes, paper, notebooks and computers than packing pistols, shotguns or gang tattoos."
The exhibition can be seen from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will travel regionally after April.
Written by Ashley Kuhn for the Philadelphia Daily News on April 1, 2014.