On Thursday afternoon, young performers in the Big Thought Creative Solutions program stepped on stage at the Margo Jones Theatre at SMU for their Summer Showcase performance. The actors have been in the spotlight before, but never applauded for it.
"I was 13 when I committed my first offense as a juvenile," said 18-year-old Zy'Corey White, a performance art student. "I think I am Creative Solutions. I am the creative solution to every bad situation that I've made."
All of the artists and performers in Creative Solutions come from the Dallas County Juvenile Department. They are referred by probation officers to the seven-week intensive program at SMU's Algur H. Meadows School for the Arts. Each is paid a stipend for participating in the program to get a sense of what it's like to be a working artist.
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"We want to help reframe the picture," Big Thought CEO Byron Sanders said. "These are not young people who are problem children. These are young people who have a ton of potential."
Sanders said statistics show about 11% of young people in Creative Solutions will re-offend, significantly lower than the general juvenile justice population.
"So, every time we make sure there's a person not re-offending, we're saving ourselves a lot of actual money," Sanders said. "But more importantly, we're investing in humanity."
"I was arrested for graffiti, which is where I got my name, 'Bone 1'", said the 28-year artist who goes by the name, Bone 1. "No one ever told me I was already making art, so when I got here, they turned that passion into a paintbrush."
Now, 13 years after he was a student in the Creative Solutions program, Bone 1 is a working artist. He's also teaching kids like him how to channel their inner artist.
"I've been in their shoes, you know. I've been in the jail system. I've been on probation," Bone 1 said. "You know, we all make mistakes, but my mistakes led me to where I'm at today."
The Big Thought Creative Solutions Summer Showcase includes a theater production called "Below the Skyline," and a visual arts exhibit.