Assembly: A youth-focused, artist-led program offering long-term paid training and pathways for reimagining new possibilities through art.


Founded in 2016, Assembly offers system-impacted young people aged 18-25 an inroad to art and connections to working artists, while serving as an alternative to incarceration and its intersecting systems of oppression. The curriculum empowers young people to take charge of their own life story and envision a future through art. The program diverts both misdemeanor and felony charges and in 2020 expanded to include a peer-to-peer referral model, allowing us to broaden our reach.                                                                                                                                                                                                



THE DETAILS: PARTICIPANTS Program participants are youth ages 18 - 25. We host two simultaneous co-horts serving youth with an interest in art and activism. These cohorts engage both peer referrals and court-involved participants. COHORTS We have rolled out a cohort of Assembly with participants referred by our Assembly Peer Leaders instead of by the courts. Our youth, therefore, offer the program to their peers from a place of care rather than a fear of carceral consequences. We are building a rubric for youth-driven community safety, without police, that likewise stems from a place of respect and trust. We have begun developing the necessary community partnerships to deliver workshops with and for these caring communities. LONG-TERM ENGAGEMENT Assembly offers participants paid opportunities to build upon their storytelling and performance skills. These elective opportunities offer paid training, internships, and employment as well as the opportunity to work closely with our artists and our organization for up to 24 hours each week. We offer skill-building workshops in arts education, art handling, printmaking, photo & video, and advocacy & activism. Youth may spend a year as Peer Leaders receiving this paid training, and are then placed in Fieldwork Internships at arts and culture institutions. THE CURRICULUM Through storytelling and performance the Assembly curriculum first points out the flaws in the generalized and false narrative of the “criminal,” and then seeks to replace these stereotypes with nuanced, individual accounts defined by their emotional and subjective content. Our goal is to lend agency and power to each narrator by supporting them as they tell their story on their own terms.

Major funding for Assembly is provided by The Horace Goldsmith Foundation, The Salomon Foundation, Art for Justice Fund, Pinkerton Foundation. Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, Donald & Shelly Rubin Foundation, Prospect Hill Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and The ELMA Philanthropies. 

Banner image courtesy by Kaz Sakuma

Designed by and built in collaboration with Artist & Educator, Kristina Bivona, the print shop at Recess is a fully functional screen print operation that was hand-built by Recess participants. The shop includes a six-color press, a mobile two-color press, and six tabletop presses. We have a library of inks, a clean room for drawing and paper preparation, a washout room, and an exposure room.
The screen printers are trained in multiple print processes and throughout a peer-leaders tenure in the print shop, they will undertake multiple projects utilizing color separation, image design, print registration, fabric/textile/paper printing. The program regularly engages in collaborations with other arts programs as well as regular collaboration with Session artists. Additionally, each peer leader learns and evolves their printmaking skills by creating their own personal projects. The prints from the shop fold in sculpture, printmaking, book arts, graphic design, commercial, and arts printing to nurture entrepreneurial and professional initiatives through the arts.

Learn to teach the Assembly curriculum. Videos from our Lead Assembly Educator, Shaun Leonardo

Minimal Gesture

Collective Storytelling

Stop! Think!

Heroes Journey

Past Assembly Artist Activations