Founded in 2016, Assembly offers system-impacted young people aged 18-26 an inroad to art and connections to working artists, while serving as an alternative to incarceration and its intersecting systems of oppression. The curriculum empowers young people to take charge of their own life story and envision a future through art. The program diverts both misdemeanor and felony charges and in 2020 expanded to include a peer-to-peer referral model, allowing us to broaden our reach.
Maps to Manifest
The Maps to Manifest Program (M2M) supports young people through an artistic and leadership development based curriculum. Over the course of this 6 week in-person gateway offering, participants will create tangible results in areas of their lives that matter most to them by manifesting their goals. Serving as peer-to-peer diversion and/or an alternative to incarceration,participants develop their ability to think, react and tell their stories on their own terms while dismantling the dominant narratives of “criminality” through visual and performance art-based storytelling workshops. The holistic relationships formed in the context of this initial Assembly offering build toward an empowered sense of self within a thriving community.
Transitioning from our gateway cohort into longer term involvement, participants may choose to join the Peer Leadership cohort—a 40-week paid program that offers opportunities for young people ages 18 - 26 to build upon their artmaking, leadership, and advocacy skills. These paid elective opportunities offer deep engagement with Recess artists, skill building workshops in arts education, printmaking, photo & video, wellness and financial literacy, and advocacy and activism.
Launched in 2020, the Assembly Fellowship program serves as a window to deeper engagement with Recess and expanded creative fields. After having exhibited a passionate and deep commitment to Assembly, select Peer Leaders are invited to transition into the fellowship to experience a robust springboard towards their own personal definition of success and stability. Rooted in a “Purpose Path” developed by Rasu Jilani, this program clearly defines a trajectory tailored specifically to the narrative participants see for their future. The Assembly Fellowship program lasts for one full year with a commitment to 16 hours of Recess-related work each week throughout their tenure. Fellows are on Recess payroll and compensated at a staff level.
Core Program Areas
Area 1: Session Artist Projects
Session supports the creation of new work by giving artists a project stipend, artist’s fee, technical support, mentorship, and approximately two months to transform Recess into a hybrid of a productive studio space dynamic exhibition platform. Session activations invite Peer Leaders to explore the possibilities of their own creativity in connection with the themes and ideas. Assembly participants learn how to welcome visitors, school groups, and community partners into the artists projects at Recess. Our young educators hone their own teaching skills, and cultivate a welcoming environment for all kinds of learners.
Area 2: Printshop
Designed by and built in collaboration with Artist and Educator, Kristina Bivona, the print shop at Recess is a fully functional screen print operation that was hand-built by Recess participants. The shop includes a six-color press, a mobile two-color press, and six tabletop presses. We have a library of inks, a clean room for drawing and paper preparation, a washout room, and an exposure room.
The screen printers are trained in multiple print processes. Throughout a Peer Leader's tenure in the print shop, they will undertake multiple projects utilizing color separation, image design, print registration, fabric/textile/paper printing. The program regularly engages in collaborations with other arts programs as well as regular collaboration with Session artists. Additionally, each Peer Leader learns and evolves their printmaking skills by creating their own personal projects. The prints from the shop fold in sculpture, printmaking, book arts, graphic design, commercial, and arts printing to nurture entrepreneurial and professional initiatives through the arts.
Area 3: Community Partners
Extending our work outwards, this area is focused on forming partnerships and disseminating the messaging and material developed in the first two program areas into tangible community collaborations and projects. Peer Leaders identify creative strategy and curricula as well as determine mission-aligned community partnerships. Together, participants design workshops and events to place the generated material.
Peer Leader Electives
The Writing Workshop at Assembly is a series of experimental writing sessions expanding into open mics and performance. Participants learn from a variety of creative writing strategies and genres through deep readings and discussions. In each session participants develop and present their own writing for group conversation and critique. The program is co-facilitated by Assembly Fellows and Assembly educators.
Documentation: Photo & Video
These workshops build photo, video, podcasting, and editing skills. Participants learn how to use cameras to document artwork and events and to create their own art.
This financial literacy and education offering partners with multiple organizations such as Student Dream, who are dedicated to helping young people of color build wealth and achieve their dreams. The elective offers resources that empowers students to achieve their financial, investment, and entrepreneurial aspirations. Our aim is to equip assembly participants with the tools they need to transform their financial health and autonomy and make an impact on the larger community.
This Pratt Institute partnership offers a peer to peer mentorship opportunity for a Pratt Fine Arts second year MFA candidate. The selected Pratt student engages collaboratively with Assembly Fellows in the development of individual artistic practice and in building a portfolio. The process grows from an establishment of trust and mutual respect and the sharing of skills and experience. The collaboration consists of two days per week working directly with Fellows over the course of the semester, in which the student conducts regular one-on-one check-ins and group critiques.
Community Safety Workshops
Utilizing a youth-driven and developed curriculum, Assembly youth fellows conduct workshops consisting of a series of visualization and embodiment exercises that challenge preconceived notions, while developing a historical understanding of policing. The workshops invite outside community members to collectively imagine and learn solutions for conflict—creating a community that is able to establish safety without the use of coercion, policing and violence.
Participants learn how to safely handle, transport, hang, and dismantle art installation materials. Assisting our artists and professional art handlers in real time, our Assembly Art Handlers realize full scale exhibitions and projects.
This offering creates an intimate space for community care. Participants meet weekly to utilize group process and creative practice in the exploration of various salient topics in mental health and wellbeing. Themes have included understanding intergenerational legacies of trauma and healing, expanding insight and meaning in one’s intersectional identity and lived experiences, meditation, yoga, and somatic practices for healing racialized trauma.
Mental Health Support
Our Assembly program integrates group and one-on-one mental health counseling and facilitates creative activities incorporating emotional healing and narrative therapy grounded in healing-centered, anti-oppressive, and integrative frameworks that center the subjective lived experience of young people and their innate capacity for creativity as resource and resilience, taking from various approaches that include trauma-informed clinical social work and family systems therapy, Somatic Abolitionism, contemplative psychotherapy, and decolonized understandings of wellness and mental health.
Embedded mental health support at Recess restores and maintains our youth’s individual sense of safety, health, and self confidence, and also draws upon the therapeutic power of connection and community as a primary resource for resilience and personal growth. The integration of on-site mental health is a key component of our Assembly programming focused on:
- 1. Development of healthy relationships in the context of mental health care
- 2. Trauma-informed/anti-oppressive lens that foregrounds race while also attending to the intersection of other identities
- 3. The development of social emotional learning both internally and in relation to others
- 4. The development of an understanding of socio-cultural trauma and oppression on both individual and systemic levels including internalized oppression, intra-racial harm, colorism
November 11, 2023–January 25, 2024
Marcela Torres and Assembly
October 28 – December 1, 2022
May - June 2022