The drab juvenile detention centers in Bexar County are getting a splash of color and positive messages on their walls through the work of an artist on a national mission to turn kids’ lives around through art.
Colorado-based Emanuel Martinez will work with youth incarcerated at the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Facility, 600 Mission Rd., in June to paint a 51-foot-by-17-foot mural on a gymnasium wall.
It will be the second mural painted in the past year at a Bexar County jail for youths. Through his Emanuel Project, in December 2011, he directed the painting of a 35-foot-by-eight-foot mural at the Cyndi Taylor Krier Juvenile Correctional Treatment Center. The new project will be his fourth this year, following murals completed at juvenile correctional centers in Lexington, Ky.; Eastman, Ga.; and Logansport, Ind.
Martinez has a special understanding of incarcerated youth because he was jailed four times as a juvenile. He said that his interest in art and painting helped redirect his life from a path that was leading to probable prison as an adult.
He sees a two-fold benefit to the 22 murals he has completed in 14 juvenile detention facilities nationwide since the Emanuel Project got started in January 2011. The participation in art projects provides a focus for the youth who do the actual painting, the way it did for him when he painted his first mural at the age of 13, while incarcerated. A second benefit is the prominently displayed positive messages found in his murals, designed to help the young people see the value of education and pursuing careers.
The mural completed in December at the Krier Center includes people, including some in caps and gowns, looking through doors where they see men representing various careers, with the city’s skyline in the background.
“I try to emphasize to young people that there are positive choices that they can make in life,” Martinez said.
Work begins June 4 on the new mural at a center that includes approximately two-thirds male and one-third female residents. Martinez will unveil the finished mural on June 18.