The girl sat sullen-faced in the art room at Dallas County’s juvenile detention. She crossed her arms on the table and lay her head down.
You should take advantage of this one time you’ll get free art supplies, the teacher, local artist Dawn Waters Baker, told her. The girl picked up a paintbrush.
“She ended up being the most incredible student I had,” Baker said Friday night, as she looked at one of the girl’s oil paintings of a sunset over a lake, streaked in shades of orange and purple.
The painting hangs in Dallas Love Field Airport’s art gallery, part of an exhibit of pieces created by youths locked up in Dallas County in recent years. Through October, travelers in the secure area of the terminal can peruse the juveniles’ paintings and drawings in the airport’s gallery, which is located beside Dunkin’ Donuts.
At Love Field Airport, hangs an oil painting of a sunset done by a girl at Dallas County Juvenile Detention who started off skeptical about art. It’s part of an exhibit that runs through October at the airport.
In the three months the exhibit is up, the airport will see about 3.5 million travelers pass through, said Guy Bruggeman, art coordinator at the city’s aviation department. The exhibit came about after Bruggeman and Terry Smith, the juvenile detention director, met last year and she suggested the kids’ art be shown if the gallery had an opening.
“Their lives have disruption and chaos but when they draw it’s the beauty that shows,” Smith said at a reception at the airport Friday. “Their sense of accomplishment and all the kudos they get — it’s like a light’s been turned on in their head.”
The art program started in 2009 and has since taken off, said program director Cynthia Wallace. The three local artists who teach — Janet Reynolds, Danielle Kent and Baker — are all volunteers. The program gets supplies through grants and donations by jurors of their $6 daily stipend.
Many of the youths have never painted before, Baker said. She’s seen lots of benefits the juveniles get from art, since they often leave happier and more relaxed. When they like a piece they created, it builds confidence too, she said.
And it’s therapeutic, said County Judge Clay Jenkins.
“A lot of the kids who act out have a lot of difficult things going on at home and they don’t have a healthy outlet to get those emotions out,” Jenkins said. “These kids may not become professional artists, but it’s a really good thing when kids can learn a constructive way to express themselves.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Friday looks at paintings done by juveniles at Dallas County lockups hanging at Love Field Airport.
Lawrence Luby, a volunteer who teaches a 10-week course for kids with drug issues on life skills and spirituality, said the most common problem he sees among the kids is that their fathers aren’t involved in their lives. He said about 90 percent of the boys that go through his course don’t have any relationship with their fathers.
“Their mothers who are trying their best to raise the kids and work,” Luby said. “But they lack a positive male influence.”
Though the kids’ work hangs in the airport, many of them have likely never ridden on an airplane, said Terry Lynn Crenshaw, a chef who teaches girls, in lockup culinary skills. Many of the girls have been involved with prostitution, she said. Besides cooking, Crenshaw said she tries to hammer on the importance of two goals for the girls: going to college and traveling.
“I tell them all they need to get a passport,” Crenshaw said. “It melts my heart when the girls say ‘This is my first time making cookies.’ They’ve been on the run so much they haven’t had a chance.”
At the reception Friday night, Baker smiled as she recalled the girl who did the sunset oil painting, and her reaction after she completed it.
“Miss, I can’t believe I did that,” Baker recalled the girl saying. “When I get out, I’m going to use my money to buy art supplies.”