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The power of painting: Juvenile Detention Center youth get new outlook on life

"I never thought I’d be able to do it.”
Posted at 6:15 AM, Oct 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-13 09:15:47-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — With the snip of a ribbon, a 250-foot mural was unveiled on the Kern County Juvenile Detention Center housing unit.

It’s called The Concrete Rose.

“This whole wall is dedicated to Tupac," one of the youth who made the mural said. "All the struggles that he had, he still didn’t give up so that tells us not to give up. Just because things get hard, doesn’t mean you should just fall back.”

The mural was created by several students living in the center. They showed off how they made it with help from the nonprofit Creative Crossing.

Its Re-create Program is funded by the California Arts Council, dedicated to making art accessible in the Juvenile Justice System.

“They get to take all of this knowledge that they’ve gained and put it out in the real world," said Christopher Perez.

Perez is a muralist with Creative Crossing. He guided the juveniles through the mural-making process.

"I saw a lot of growth, which is great," he said. "I’ve just seen their mentalities change. They understand that [they] have to get these time crunches done. They have to work together. They can’t just be a one-man show and I think they understood that, and it’s really going to help them develop later on in life.”

The students said it wasn’t easy. They put in 600 hours over the course of six months.

“I wanted to give up so many times," one of them said.

"I thought when we first started, it wasn’t going to get done," another said. "It was a lot that we did on this wall.”

Creating the mural brought the guys together, building meaningful relationships. They said it’s pretty unbelievable to see it finished, and to know it’ll be here for years to come.

“Now to walk down this ramp and for people to get the inspiration, [they] see like, ‘Yeah, I can’t give up,'" a youth said. "[It] might not happen today but it’s going to happen later on in life.”

“It’s amazing. For the past six years, I've been in and out, [and] I never thought I’d see something like this on the wall," another said. "But when I came out here, it changed my whole view on things. Especially doing this because I never thought I’d be able to do it.”

This project has inspired them to stay positive and see what else they can accomplish. They hope anyone who walks past it feels the same way.

“Everybody goes through struggles. [Everybody] that comes in here probably goes through struggles. [Just] read everything [while] you’re walking down, go all the way to the door, and like the door [says], even when you’re fed up, keep your head up.”

Creative Crossing has received another grant to continue this program for a second year.

We’ll continue to follow their influential work with the Juvenile Justice System.