OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) received a grant from the Oklahoma Arts Council to provide kids in their care with a hands-on opportunity to learn the fundamentals of graffiti art from Oklahoma City-based hip-hop instructor, Angel Little. Already, kids in Tecumseh and Manitou have participated in class discussions and learned various techniques for sharing ideas, expressing emotions and communicating a vision through graffiti art.
Marqus Butler, OJA program manager, explained that the project “symbolizes OJA’s commitment to a Positive Youth Development (PYD) philosophy for young people in our care. For many young people, graffiti has been associated with negative community and individual experiences. The project demonstrates how something assumed to be negative can become a positive reflection of interest and skills.”
After participating in the classroom experience, the kids were given an opportunity to submit drawings and compete to assist Little in spray painting a mural at the OJA state office. Several students will be selected.
“It’s important to encourage our kids to do bigger and better things than we’ve ever imagined,” said Little. “But, that encouragement doesn’t just come in the form of words. We show that we care and are truly invested when we spend time with them and offer the benefit of our experiences and knowledge so they can build on that.”
While the tools have changed, graffiti art dates to ancient times. The dawn of modern graffiti art is often attributed to the work of an artist named “Cornbread” in the late 1960’s in Philadelphia. The use of this medium for expression and identity is a core part of hip-hop culture. OJA is excited to partner with the Arts Council and Little to make this educational opportunity available.
“The arts are unique in their ability to address many needs in our state,” stated Amber Sharples, executive director of the Oklahoma Arts Council. “Through offering support for the Office of Juvenile Affairs’ Graffiti Culture in Oklahoma program, the Oklahoma Arts Council can efficiently amplify the work of two state agencies in meeting those needs. We applaud the vision exemplified in this program, and we look forward to learning how young people are empowered and inspired through this experience.” The project is expected to run through February.