Giving Thanks on Giving Tuesday: COA Holton Youth Center Memorial Garden

Giving Thanks on Giving Tuesday: Artists Working in Education Responds to the Needs of Community

Youth Transform Tragedy into Beauty

Teens from COA Holton Youth Center and Professional Artists from Artists in Working in Education created a memorial sculpture garden to honor the 125 gun-homicide victims in 2016.

Through AWE’s 5×3 projects, we position ourselves with community partners and professional artists to engage youth in projects and programming that matter to them. We are thankful for the Racial Equity & Inclusion Grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation that led to the creating of more public art in five target neighborhoods (Lindsay Heights, Harambee, Clarke Square, Layton Boulevard West neighborhoods, and Washington Park) over the course of three years. The program is entering into its third year.

Earlier this year, youth from COA Holton Youth Center partnered with Artists Working in Education’s 5×3 Artist-in-Residence program to create a temporary memorial sculpture garden to honor the 125 gun-homicide victims from 2016. For several months, Artist Facilitator and Assistant Program Coordinator, Katie Loughmiller worked with young people on the projects. “Each site was different, but in the first few weeks at Holton, it was clear that gun violence had affected the youth – many lost family members or friends to gun violence. We knew early on that we wanted to make a piece to create awareness about gun violence in the city.”

Local artist Anwar Floyd-Pruitt was hired on to the project after the youth decided what their project would focus on. “We did research on the different types of memorials that are created when someone dies. The candles, teddy bears, flowers and beer bottles left near the site of the incident are a concern of neighbors, because all of that turns into litter – which already has an adverse effect on the community and the neighborhood. We wanted to have a better impact on the neighborhood, so the idea of flowers was born.”

“There’s a lot of diversity in wildlife and in plant life, and the youth reflected that in how they painted the flowers. Ultimately, we were able to connect with the youth and have them use art as a means of communication,” Floyd-Pruitt said.

These projects help youth build an understanding of strategies to cope with trauma and how they can have an impact in the city. Be on the look-out for more 5×3 coming to a neighborhood near you.