Claudia V. is a seventeen-year-old interned with the County of Los Angeles juvenile justice system; she participated in the Minerva Arts Project while at Camp Scott, an all-girls "camp" run by the LA County Probation Department.
The Minerva Arts Project began as a collaboration between the The Women's Conference, the California Arts Council and the Alameda County Arts Commission to support the development and education of all young people, particularly those at risk. The Minerva Project Quilts -- one of its ongoing projects -- gives girls in the juvenile system the chance to connect with their own inner creativity, courage, strength and wisdom -- through creating quilts that depict the Roman Goddess Minerva.
Claudia V. talks about how this project changed her outlook on life:
When I was first told I’d make a quilt while here at Camp Scott, I didn’t think much of it. My mom had taught us kids how to sew our clothes together, so I thought it would be like that. But it was a lot more than sewing.
I worked on the quilt every Saturday for 6 weeks. I wanted to discipline myself. I’ve been trying to work on my patience – so I worked to get the stitches the right size and the right order.
The quilt has a blue background with roses; it has a red border with red letters that spell “Warrior” over a picture of Minerva. Each element symbolizes something. Blue is the color of water; water is life. Red represents royalty. I see Minerva as a warrior more than as someone of peace, and I see the warrior in myself. I’m a Gemini – I have a bad side and a good side. Minerva, to me, was a fighter and a lover. Within the fighter was love; someone has to take passion and time to do what they want to do – if fighting is something they like to do – it takes passion. To me, Minerva was a good fighter and a good lover – she had a lot to give.
It was important to express myself within the quilt – to take my time with this piece of art. Even so, I thought it wasn’t going to be noticed. I thought my life wasn’t important. But after doing it, I could tell my life in this piece. And the colors – the way I used the letters – it started to mean a lot to me.
Like all the people there helping us, teaching us how to sew and put things together – I realized I could be someone successful who can take their time and do something important. The project really motivated me to keep going with my education. I plan on going on to college and then getting a Masters in Architecture.
I could see beyond the art. Making the quilt – working like that - is like a meditation.
Claudia V. is not alone in thinking this project has been a success -- or that art has the power to heal.
In the words of Anita Vigil, Probation Director, County of Los Angeles Probation Department:
I've never seen such transformation in the girls - in all my years working in the LA Probation Department -- as I did through the Minerva Arts Project. The girls who started the project were aimless; after the program, they had new direction, new confidence. I will never forget these girls or their transformation. How can you forget when a young woman tells you “I found belief in myself”? Behind each quilt is a touching story of personal achievement.
And as Donald H. Blevins, Chief Probation Officer, County of Los Angeles Probation Department, puts it,
The process of creating a piece of art creates an environment for self-reflection and expression. By definition this experience strengthens critical thinking skills and enhances a young person’s ability to problem solve. Simply said when you feel good about yourself you are more likely to make good choices. Arts and sports programs balance out the Departments evidence-based treatment services.
To learn more about the Minerva Arts Project, and specifically the quilts, visit The California Museum website.