At first glance, you see a hard-faced criminal. But take a deep
look at the booking photos lining the walls of the gallery and behind the cold stare you
see a daunting reality: That criminal is just a child, a young kid lost in the dizzying --
and unforgiving -- world of juvenile justice.
At least that's the picture several local agencies are trying to
paint by unveiling ArtCARE, an exhibition designed to expose youngsters in jail to the
arts while sending out a message that troubled children should not be treated like
hardened adult criminals.
``Part of the problem with these kids is they don't know any
better,'' said Xavier Cortada, a local artist and attorney who for two months worked with
juvenile inmates at Turner Guilford Knight correctional facility in Miami-Dade County to
expose them to the arts. ``Adult jail is no place for children, that's what these exhibits
are trying to show.''
The project is a collaboration of Miami-Dade Art in Public Places,
Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department, Miami-Dade Weed and Seed
program and the law offices of public defender Bennett Brummer.
Florida Supreme Court Justice Fred Lewis, local judges, public
defenders and social workers attended the opening of the gallery.
``These children may not be perfect in any way, but these children
belong to us,'' Lewis said during the grand opening.
Booking photos of the juveniles, ages 14 to 18, lined the walls of
the gallery at the Casa Grande Cultural Center, on the ground floor at 104 SW Ninth St. In
the back of the gallery is a large mural depicting children shuffled through a system that
has given up on them -- with a drawing of a Haitian juvenile named Garry Petit-Frere who
killed himself at TGK while the project was in progress.
``Positive change is what we want from, and for, these kids,''
Brummer said. ``Our society often tries to bring about positive change through sanctions
and deprivations. But a positive human relationship is the most effective stimulus for
The exhibition will be at the gallery until March 26, when it will
move to cultural centers throughout the county.
It will be open from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, and by
appointment by calling 305-858-1323.