Guest Column

Changing young lives through public art and community engagement. 

By Brittini Long

If you have driven through Dayton recently you have likely seen the plethora of public art murals that adorn the side of buildings throughout our city. Did you know that many of these masterpieces were created by youth in the HAALO Program? HAALO is an acronym for Helping Adolescents Achieve Long-term Objectives.

Started in 2010, the HAALO Program was created by the staff at Montgomery County Juvenile Court in partnership with the staff at K12 Gallery & TEJAS to expose court-involved youth to different mediums of art while also teaching them life skills that will assist them in being successful members of our community.

Arts exposure can be an integral asset-building tool for our young people; from critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills to creativity, motivation, and patience, the therapeutic process of the HAALO Program has endless benefits for the young people involved.

The first three years of the program were focused on producing a “Museum on the Street” through the creation of 17 master replicas that beautify the area of East Third Street at Sears Street in downtown Dayton. Under the artistic tutelage of Scott Gibbs and guidance of Montgomery County Juvenile Court staff, the kids worked tirelessly—often sideways in orientation due to the immense size of these pieces—to give back to the community in a huge display of public art.

The kids studied art history, learned different painting techniques and helped plan the execution of this large-scale art project. Each youth’s individual strengths were nurtured while they learned how to work as a team toward a common goal. The HAALO Program had a two-fold outcome; not only are the youth able to grow internally throughout the artistic process, they are also able to make a stunning impact on their city.

Since 2010, the youth in the HAALO Program have worked with a variety of local artists to create a total of 25 murals throughout the city. Whether you are driving down Steve Whalen Boulevard or visiting Wesley Community Center, you have likely seen their artwork and wondered who created it. You can see their most recent project in the Wright Dunbar neighborhood, at the corner of West Third Street and Williams Street, where they worked under the guidance of artist James Pate to create a mural that highlights the Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame.

The program continues to inspire all the youth involved by giving them a chance to follow their dreams and develop their strengths while instilling a sense of responsibility for one’s community. HAALO has the potential to beautify the city “one block at a time” while changing the lives of many youth who would have otherwise went uninspired.

The next time you are driving throughout Dayton, keep your eyes peeled for public art murals and please remember the intrepid young artists that made it happen!

For more information or to get involved with the HAALO Program call me at 937-239-1663.