"In art I will always find my peace."

"Art helps you express your anger so you don't have to express it in other ways."

-  Arts Alternative participants

Arts Alternative, a collaboration between Worcester Juvenile Probation and the Worcester Art Museum (WAM), provides court-involved young people access and opportunities to the arts. Now in its fifth year, the program got its start when Probation Officer Fiona Bycroft-Ryder connected with WAM Director Matthias Waschek to design a meaningful program for young probationers.

"The goal of this program is to allow adolescents to think and reflect on their own lives, with the support of program staff, and develop positive relationships with art as a medium," says Officer Bycroft-Ryder, who has been a Juvenile Probation Officer at the Trial Court for 20 years. "By providing access to the art museum and developing artistic talent, Arts Alternative offers healthy alternatives to violence, substance abuse and criminal activities. The program offers a means of prevention, positive development and engagement."

Each month, Arts Alternative brings some 8-18 juveniles together on Saturday mornings to visit the museum. After participants select an art history topic, WAM Volunteer Docent Ginny Powell-Brazier conducts a guided tour and discussion. Next, the group heads to the museum's in-house art studio for hands-on instruction from WAM Art Teacher Jaime Buckmaster. Participants' artwork is displayed each year at exhibitions held at the Worcester Trial Court and Worcester Art Museum. The program is funded by donations. WAM has awarded four scholarships for art museum classes to participants interested in further developing their artistic talents.

Court-involved juveniles have logged in over 600 visits to the museum since the first Arts Alternative group met in 2012. Many young people return to participate in the program when they are no longer on probation, says Officer Byrcroft-Ryder.

Arts Alternative staff include: Probation Officers Fiona Bycroft-Ryder, Alouneny Le, and Michael Bercume, as well as Assistant Chief Probation Officer Donna Quick, WAM Volunteer Docent Ginny Powell-Braizer, and WAM Art Teacher Jaime Buckmaster.

Read it. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette visited this year's Arts Alternative exhibit at the Trial Court.

Arts Alternative's artwork on display at the Worcester Trial Court this spring.
Arts Alternative's artwork on display at the Worcester Trial Court.