Jason Colon Talks ‘Art of Survival’ at RITS

From Dave Dvorchak on AS220.org

Jason Colon is the Site Manager for AS220 Youth at the Rhode Island Training school – the state’s juvenile detention facility. Normally, staff at AS220 Youth teach classes on a regular basis with youth at the RITS but, due to the ongoing pandemic, access has been restricted as of late. Read on to hear how Jason and our Youth staff came up with a creative solution to be able to connect with their students at the RITS during these challenging times! Want to support this important work? Click here to donate to AS220 Youth!

Tell me the idea behind The Art of Survival.
The concept is that, due to COVID, we haven’t been able to do programming inside the Training School. In response, we created a workbook that will be deployed to them this week, so they can continue their work. It entails everything from creative writing and music, to drawing, painting, illustration, and photography – all tools that these youth use to survive. The youth in the Training School lack representation, so we thought the name of the book represents them perfectly, because that’s what they do – they represent “The Art of Survival”.

How has the pandemic has affected youth at the RITS?
Due to the pandemic, our program had to halt all classes since March. This had led to us not being able to connect to the youth. Virtual programming was not happening at the RITS, and so the youth lacked the effective arts we previously had provided.

How will this work happen now?
I’m going to be personally working on this with them, so we’ll be meeting in classrooms as social distancing permits. Working personally with them on this is important, I think. They got to work with most of the instructors who put this together, but those instructors aren’t able to get into the Training School now. So, me being able to represent those instructors and the pieces that they did to create this book is very critical and important.  

Will this work eventually be available for the rest of us to see?
Eventually work from The Art of Survival will be published in The Hidden Truth, which is a book of all the work done in the Training School put together – so curations of art, music, whatever it may be – and will be available for folks out there to see!

What is your background in the arts and / or working with youth?
I have not previously worked in the arts field before AS220, I have worked with youth as an experienced coordinator with a demonstrated history of working in the education administration industry and non-profit programs.

What do you enjoy about working with youth at the RITS?
At the RITS it is most exciting to see the youth take our classes as a sense of relief from their everyday life. We teach in a non-traditional way and it resonates with the youth so profoundly because they use arts, music, and the many other ways we teach as a sense of connection to the real world. The youth use their life experience as a way to connect to the arts and it gives them the true experience of what we do, this I feel is the best way to teach youth, through experiences and relating those experiences to artistic measures.

Want to support this important work? Click here to donate to AS220 Youth!