Making Justice

Making Justice.Building Community

Making Justice is a community-based learning program for at-risk and court-involved teens that includes weekly workshops and an artist-in-residence opportunity. The program addresses the nation's widest black/white educational opportunity gap and highest per capita black juvenile arrest and incarceration rate [Wisconsin Council on Children & Families, Race to Equity (2013)].  Offered in collaboration with a diverse spectrum of artists, educators and activists, Making Justice fosters community engagement and self-expression via graphic and 3D art, photography, spoken word, performance, video and life skills projects.

While teen participants are focused on creating a FINAL PRODUCT, workshop leaders are more concerned with relationship building, basic skill development and connection to the community. Learn more about our approach with the Making Justice Facilitators Guide.

Making Justice partners include community advisors who review program design and suggest resources; guest facilitators who help design and lead program sessions; juvenile justice agencies that review program design and supervise program participants; media art consultants who provide design and technical support; secondary-school educators who facilitate curriculum development; and UW programs that support faculty and student engagement. Learn more about the making of this operation and how the program was developed through this behind the scenes deep dive with core community partners.

*Making Justice is currently funded by Scooter Software, Epic Software, Madison Arts Commission, Dane Arts, and the Madison Public Library Foundation.

Growing Voices

A weekly rotation of Making Justice workshops and resources target at-risk and court-involved teenagers connected to the Dane County Juvenile Court Detention Center, the Dane County Juvenile Court Shelter Home, the Neighborhood Intervention Program, and several classrooms within Madison Metropolitan School District.

The project-based workshops foster hands-on, peer-supported learning and digital literacy that connect students with diverse community and campus partners, including faculty and students from University of Wisconsin-Madison and MATC. Workshop participants create graphic and 3D art, photographic, spoken word, storytelling, performance and video projects documenting themselves, their communities and the justice system. Collaborative projects accommodate a variety of interests, skills and learning styles, and are contextualized to connect with current teenage experiences and community resources. Check out the CREATIONS page for examples of the projects brought to teens on a weekly rotation.

Bigger Projects
Making Justice Residency

Making Justice project residencies brings a local teaching artist to Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, Dane County Juvenile Court Shelter Home, Dane County Jail, or GROW Academy to offer intensive exploration and development of a skill or project. When possible, we aim to align the residencies with public school vacations to provide more in-depth learning experiences for teen residents while the on-site teachers are out of the office during Winter Break, Spring Break and Summer Break.

Most Recent Residencies

  • EMILY POPP, JENNIE BASTIAN & BIRD ROSS  - Dane County Jail - Winter 2023
    After working with the Bubbler to create a mascot mural to brand their classrooms with positivity and color, students in the Metro Jail classroom followed up with a request to learn how to sew and to create their own graduation gown with Metro Panther colors to be used for future graduations in their classroom. Emily, Jennie and Bird worked as a team to walk students through the production of individual first draft projects followed up by a collaborative final gown made of leather that future students will continue to wear during their high school graduation ceremonies.
    Before anyone started painting during this winter break mural project, artists Maria, Savannah & Christina ran a series of workshops over two weeks with the purpose of building relationships with and among students, and to create a spirit of trust and openness about the creative process as the group began to collaborate toward a final mural design for the wall where students make phone calls to family, friends and advocates.

Previous Residencies

See Making Justice Residencies from 2013-2022

Radio Interviews

Listen to the local WORT radio station interview teaching artists after their Making Justice residency.

Joining Forces

Making Justice builds on the knowledge and energy of many people and organizations, and continues to change as new partners join the effort in different roles and capacities. The current program solidly stands upon the foundation built by many partnerships, a series of pilot programs and financial support from outside of the library.


2010 - Madison Public Library began developing workshops for youth in the justice system with the uCreate project at Dane County Jail. uCreate was organized by Global Kids (NY) as their first Edge Project and was run in collaboration with Madison Metropolitan School District, Dane County Library Service, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (NC) and Mecklenburg County Jail (NC). Edge Projects are interested in helping civic and cultural institutions to bring cutting edge digital media into their youth educational programs, and the uCreate pilot project linked jails with community libraries in two cities, to work specifically with incarcerated youth and new learning technologies. 


2012 - Community Partnerships Inc.'s ArtSpeak Director, Kay DeWaide, collaborated with UW-Madison faculty member Nancy Buenger to develop an expressive art program for court-involved Dane County teens, which incorporated UW student peer learners enrolled in the course Looking Beyond the Law's Letter.


2012 - Madison Public Library received a grant from the local Irwin A. & Robert D. Goodman Foundation to develop a portable stop-motion animation program for teens based out of the Goodman South Madison Library. The grant allowed the library to purchase equipment, contract with an animation instructor and build the program with teen input.  The library was able to reach target populations by working with key community outreach partners already serving court-involved teens that included Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, Dane County Juvenile Shelter Home, Community Partnerships Inc., and Centro Hispano. It was during this time that library staff began working with community partners to build and share the Bubber concept.

Making Justice

2013 - Madison Public Library and ArtSpeak staff began participating in each other's workshops, sharing practices, sharing community partners, and generating ideas. In 2014, Making Justice was launched with the generous support of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment and Morgridge Center for Public Service, along with a National Leadership Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. A broad spectrum of campus and community partners joined the initiative, including UW Madison students opting to take our community-based learning course. Learn more about the making of this operation from this BEHIND THE SCENES deep dive!