On Weds. the mens group (Ebnom.org) I am part of visited the Alameda County Juvenile Hall Camp Sweeney and did a chalk drawing with the young men who are locked up. Juvenile Hall the prison for teenagers.

Ebnom guys or Juveniles??? The young men at Camp Sweeney can not be photographed.

We had about 30 young men drawing with us for a few hours in the morning after I showed them my artwork and talked to them about chalk drawing and how we set a world record.

I have taught art and creativity in prison for many years, I like it. I remember once feeling safer in prison that outside in this sometimes crazy world. Camp Sweeney is an adjacent complex to the Juvenile Hall, it’s where the young men go before they are being left out.

I was excited the night before going, not nervous, which I realized is a similar feeling in the body but definitely different. At the camp hanging out with the young men I was surprised how comfortable I was being close to them.

I didn’t hear stories of why they were there, I didn’t ask, and I know none of their stories are good. One of the councilors said they are lucky to catch 1 out of 10 young men who go through program…. that’s sad. I wanted everyone of them to win in living and understanding and knowing what it takes, and then having the support and inspiration to do it, to live into their dreams.

I picked a snake with wings for the image we were going to draw. I have always thought of this type of artwork, chalk drawing / street painting as medicine for the people. So what do these young men need? Transformation, healing, shedding old skin?

The snake is the most widely used symbol in all of humanity, across the globe in all cultures. Symbolizing evil and temptation in one culture, spiritual protection in another. Deceitfulness, guardianship, poison and medicine, renewal, rebirth, regeneration. I once wrote a small book titled, “The Universe Creating Itself. My Life as a Snake.”

This is a Caduceus. I just learned while writing this blog that the caduceus is sometimes erroneously used as a symbol for medicine, especially in North America, due to confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no wings.

Also from the web: A snake with wings is the mythological symbol for the human ego. It is in the form of a dragon. It represents the inner dragon of a person, which the person must slay before he or she gets to his or her desire.

Film maker and musician Kevin Footer with the Kids’ Chalk Art Project t-shirt on.

In the end the young men did some of their tricks, they drew gang signs that needed to be drawn over. It turned into quite the scene, not bad, just interesting, a little crazy, but I…. was more interested in drawing and didn’t pay that much attention to it. Leading by example.

Bless those young men!

~Mark Wagner
Creative Director: Re-Enchanting the World Through Art
Supporting and Inspiring the Creative Spirit in Youth and Community
a 501(c)3 nonprofit
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