Press Release: Arts-in-Corrections Leader Receives Education Award

Wednesday, October 24th

Contact: James E. Modrick, Executive Director
Phone: (301) 588-4474

Arts-in-Corrections Leader Receives Education Award

October 23, 2012 – Silver Spring, MD —Claire Schwadron, Director of Project Youth ArtReach, an award-winning positive youth development program for youthful offenders and incarcerated adults, received the Education Award from the Montgomery County Executive's Awards for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities which was held at Montgomery College’s Cultural Arts Center on Monday night.

“I feel so honored to receive this award, and grateful for the acknowledgement of Project Youth ArtReach as a legitimate and powerful means of intervention in the lives of young people who are too often dismissed or forgotten," says Ms. Schwadron.”

Project Youth ArtReach – a core program of Class Acts Arts – provided 711 art programs ranging from ceramics and mural arts to country blues harmonica and West African drumming, and served over 2,400 youth and adult offenders during the past fiscal year (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012).  However, Project Youth ArtReach programs were recently suspended at three state juvenile detention facilities because the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) “has decided to provide this service with State employees,” according to a letter dated July 27, 2012 from the department. 

“It is a shame to see that these programs are being cut in places where they can do the greatest good,” says Class Acts Arts founder Busy Graham.  “Our young people who have been neglected and marginalized by society deserve better.”   

During her tenure as director of Project Youth ArtReach, Ms. Schwadron has overseen arts programs at several sites, including these DJS facilities: the Alfred D. Noyes Children’s Center in Montgomery County, the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George’s County, the Waxter Center for Girls in Anne Arundel County, and the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center.  Project Youth ArtReach also provides arts programs on three units at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility and with The Choice Program of the Shriver Center at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, a court-mandated mentoring program for DJS youth. 

“Claire and Project Youth ArtReach have made a very significant contribution to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.  The utilization of targeted arts programming to facilitate learning, engagement and understanding has significantly contributed to our ability to maintain a safe facility and positively impact those returning to the streets of our community,” says Warden Robert Green.

Ms. Schwadron took over as Program Director in 2003 and has made Project Youth ArtReach a model for arts programs in reaching high-risk youth.  Some of her innovations include bringing a diversity of cultural traditions and artistic disciplines to corrections and juvenile detention facilities, connecting youth to the community through donations of artwork, and conducting artist trainings that include presentations by experts in the areas of arts-in-corrections, behavior disorders in youth, and best practices for working inside a correctional environment.
“Not everyone is going to respond to a particular art form the same way.  By providing different ways of experiencing the world through multiple cultures and types of art, the young men and women inside corrections and juvenile detention facilities can begin to imagine different paths their own lives can take.  Giving back reaffirms their sense of care and responsibility towards the community. Finding gifted teaching artists and training them to work with this population as well as inside correctional settings is paramount to creating a safe and supportive environment for self-expression,” says Schwadron.

Ms. Schwadron holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a former high school art teacher.  She presented her paper on “Cultural Diversity in Arts in Corrections” at the national “Community Arts Convening” conference in Monterey, CA in 2009 and has served on two panels at the national “Arts in Criminal Justice” conference in Philadelphia in 2007 and contributed on “The Prison Industrial Complex” seminar at the national “Imagining America” conference in Minneapolis-St. Paul in 2011.  Ms Schwadron has also led a workshop on arts-for-juvenile-offenders at Rutgers University.

“We are so blessed and proud to have someone of Claire’s qualifications, experience and passion as part of our community,” says Catherine Leggett, spouse of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and chair of the Maryland Public Art Commission.  “The work Claire is doing transforms the lives of many and has proven to help put them on the road to a future of expanded horizons.  This award is much deserved.”

Project Youth ArtReach was launched in late 1999 by Class Acts Arts’ founder, Busy Graham, in response to a news article printed in The Washington Post about a brawl at a Maryland youth detention center in which one staff member and seven juveniles were injured.  The over-crowded conditions and a lack of mental health, education and other services at the facility contributed to the outbreak of violence, as well as the stress and low morale of youth incarcerated over the holiday season.  To prevent a recurrence the following year, Class Acts Arts implemented a week of arts performances and workshops between Christmas and New Year’s at the Alfred D. Noyes Children's Center in Rockville, the site of the previous year’s altercation. 

Class Acts Arts (CAA) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) arts education organization that brings arts into the community through school assemblies and workshops in the performing and visual arts to children in-school, after-school, and out-of-school.  CAA also ensures access to the arts through programs that reach low-income children, court-involved youth through Project Youth Art Reach, seniors, special needs children and adults, and wounded warriors.  Visit for more info.  Class Acts Arts is supported in part by the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, the Maryland State Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.