Community Enrichment
NeON Arts
New York City

The NeON Arts program was developed to provide access to high-quality arts education and programming for the residents of some of New York City’s most impoverished communities, particularly young people who have been placed on probation.

Using the core infrastructure of the city’s Department of Probation’s (DOP) Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) —a citywide group of community-based centers in seven of the its most economically challenged and historically underserved neighborhoods — the NeON Arts program aims to improve the quality of life in these communities while improving outcomes for court-involved youths.

In partnership with Carnegie Hall, NeON Stakeholder groups, comprised of individuals on probation, DOP staff, and members of the community determine which programs would most benefit their residents. Carnegie Hall staff facilitates the grant-making process, coordinates events and works to ensure that each project is a collaboration that benefits the entire community. Each project culminates in a public performance or exhibition open to the entire community, with an anticipated reach of more than 5,000 individuals on a scale of 25 to 30 projects annually.

“There is no question that the arts can transform lives, particularly the lives of people who have faced life challenges,” NYC Department of Probation Commissioner Ana Bermudez says. “By fostering opportunities to develop creative, social, and emotional skills, while building positive peer relationships, NeON Arts helps young people find their voices and develop an important new identity — that of artist and creator.”
Programs have included dance recitals, mural paintings, theatrical and musical performances and poetry readings.

But getting troubled youths involved in the arts isn’t just a nice idea. Studies show that arts programing and education in criminal and juvenile justice settings can change lives. Studies also show participation in arts programs can increase self-control, decrease antisocial behavior and may even reduce levels of recidivism.

As of November 2015, NeON Arts has launched 44 projects and served over 7,000 people across the city. The program has built a sustainable, scalable infrastructure that can maintain local arts projects in underserved communities far into the future.