Art project helps inspire juvenile detainees

Former detainee helps turn kids' lives around through art

Published On: Jun 18 2012 04:49:46 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 18 2012 12:58:46 PM CDT

A 51-by-17-foot mural on the gymnasium wall at the Bexar County Detention center is more than just a colorful addition to the stark white and blue walls.

The mural is part of an art project that has brought inspiration and hope to young juvenile detainees who helped paint it

Ryan, a 16-year-old detainee, said, "I liked it. It took my mind off a lot of things."

Montranique, a 17-year-old detainee and mother of a 15-month-old boy, said she worries a lot about her son and the project helped her to cope.

"I be stressing a lot and I felt like in order for me to do this, I could get my mind off a lot of stuff, which it did, and that was good," she said.

Artist Emanuel Martinez, who designed the mural, can relate.

He was sent to a juvenile detention center at the age of 13.  By the age of 25, he has several works on permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

He said art was the key that changed his life so he's now sharing his gift with kids across the nation, in hopes of turning their lives around.

"It helps their self-confidence and gives them some positive imagery that that helps them make better choices in life," said Martinez

Martinez travels across the nation with the Emanuel Project, working with incarcerated youth to design murals.

The mural at BCJDC is the 22nd he's done at a detention center.

"The title of the mural is 'Shoot for your Goals,' and that's the message I'd like for them to take away," he said. 

Montranique said the experience has changed her view about her situation. 

"Instead of taking our anger out on people, you could take your anger out on something elsem but in a good way," she said. "You can do anything that you want to do if you really want to and put your mind to it."