Los Angeles is called the “Gang Capital of America.” There are120,000 gang members, plus tens of thousands more in the surrounding areas around L.A. County. Gang membership has increased over the last five years. There were 16,398 violent gang crimes in the City of LA, like homicides, felony assaults, robberies and rapes.

New Directions for Youth in North Hollywood provides intervention support for gang members who are on the fence about dropping out of their gangs, plus prevention for younger children, and re-entry programs for probation youth.

Between April and June, they hired Create Now through the Mayor’s GRYD (Gang Reduction and Youth Development) initiative to implement our Create a Mural Now workshop for a number of these kids.

The classes were taught by Master Teaching Artist Manny Velasquez and Jenny Roman-Rossington. Around 25 kids got to create designs that reflected their dreams and goals. Yadira, age 15, said, “I was like a bad girl before, but then I joined the program and it made me realize that I want to become a doctor.”

Our colorful mural fills four large walls depicting many things the kids love to do, plus their hopes for the future. Program Manager Adrian Cuentas said, “To be able to have these pictures on the walls that tell stories is very meaningful.”

Manny remarked, “For the youth participating in this mural project, it gives them work experience. They can say ‘I was involved in this public art project,’ which they can add to their resumés.”

As always, Create Now culminated our program with a party and gift bags for all the kids, which included backpacks, sunglasses, Certificates of Completion and other lasting souvenirs. These mementos bring pride and confidence to the youth and serve to remind them of their accomplishments as they share their experiences with families and friends.

Check out this short video about our Create a Mural Now workshop: