Free Write Arts & Literacy

chicago, IL

Free Write Arts & Literacy engages incarcerated and court-involved youth and young adults in the performing, visual, and literary arts so that they become the narrators of their own stories and the authors of their futures. By co-designing creative space with our students, Free Write supports them as they develop educational and career opportunities that reduce recidivism while also contributing to the public discourse around issues of youth incarceration.

Through one-on-one literacy tutoring and workshops in creative writing, visual art, music production, and workforce development, Free Write students build competencies in reading and writing, art making, technical skills, community building, and critical thinking. Students hone and exemplify these skills through publication, exhibition, and performance opportunities while incarcerated and upon returning to the community.

In the summer of 2000, Free Write began working one-on-one with incarcerated youth in hopes of improving their print literacy skills. The project readily expanded to include creative writing, visual art, and music production workshops, resulting in densely packed and widely distributed anthologies and public exhibitions of student work. To date, Free Write has published seven of anthologies, installed over 50 public exhibitions, and worked alongside over 10,000 detained and criminalized youth and young adults.