Troubled Teens Find Hope Through Art

Site Profile

Field of Work: Radio stations demonstrating that community-centered journalism can address local health care issues.

Problem Synopsis: Media coverage of health issues had been weakest at the local level, according to RWJF staff, who thought that educational outreach conducted by local radio broadcasting and local community partners could play an effective role in informing and involving citizens in health care. Past strategies for community outreach had centered on providing content to local broadcasters. In this top-down model, national broadcasters or others gave local stations ready-to-use materials that complemented national programming. Generally, these efforts failed to capture the imagination or passions of local communities.

Synopsis of Work: The possibility of using art to heal adolescents struggling with substance abuse brought together staff at the public radio station of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, KUAF-FM, and the Art Experience, an art-therapy counseling center in Birmingham, Ala.

The project, Fearless Art, Fearless Choices, sought to open two doors: one to teens that might help them see their decisions as having more than one dimension and foreseeable repercussions; and a second to the public to, in some way, reveal how young people really think and act.

The project took place from January 2000 to August 2001.

Key Results: Student teams designed a traveling performance piece and art exhibit that incorporated puppets, masks and murals. Through these presentations, Fearless Art, Fearless Choices reached hundreds of children and adults at six elementary schools and a local arts center.

The project produced a series of radio reports that followed the progress of high school student mentors and their younger sidekicks over the course of a year. The radio programming targeted an audience of parents, teachers, social workers, mental health care workers and physicians, who comprise 75 percent of KUAF's 360,000 member listening audience.