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Juvenile Correctional Center Quilt Show

ABOUT THE PROJECT

This exhibition showed the creativity of teens incarcerated at The Culpeper Juvenile Correctional Center in what is believed to be the first-ever quilting class ever offered in a male juvenile correctional facility. Presented by The Bridge and lead by Roy Mitchell Jr., a nationally-acclaimed quilting artist whose work has been widely exhibited on two continents, the project taught the power of teamwork, self-control, and self-esteem.

The show was exhibited in June 2015, with over 50 guests in attendance.

About Roy Mitchell Jr. :

Self-esteem came in handy for Mitchell when he first became enchanted with the beauty of quilting in 1990 upon seeing a display at a Manassas community fair. “I wanted to buy one for my friend, but when I found out how expensive they were, I refused,” Mitchell remembers. “I didn’t understand how something you just throw on a bed could cost so much. I told my friend that if she wanted a quilt, I would make one for her.”

Mitchell enrolled in a quilting class in Stafford County, where he was the only African American and the only male, eliciting many curious stares. But he also found that, being the lone male, everybody around him really wanted to see him succeed.

And succeed he did: He became so impassioned with the art that it became his full profession. His work has been featured in the Sumner Museum in Washington, D.C., at the Quilter’s Heritage Celebration in Lancaster, PA, in Ghana, West Africa, and the Alliance for American Quilters’ Original Sewing & Quilt Expo, where one of his quilts was selected out of 2,500 entries to be part of a special exhibit of the top 15.

As an educator, Mitchell knew that quilting could be a way to reach troubled young men, but he was apprehensive at first. “Most of these kids consider quilting a woman’s a says. But I’m bringing it to them from a male perspective.”

And after a few sessions, even he has been surprised at the benefits the residents themselves have said they have received: encouragement, cooperating with one another, increased communication skills, setting personal goals to complete tasks, using thinking skills, following instructions and direction, determination, time management skills, coming to class on time and being prepared.

Mitchell points out that they also are learning measurements, geometric shapes, vocabulary, terms used in the art, and history, all of which can be useful in many vocations. Culpeper JCC staff report that they have seen significant positive changes in the residents who participate, including many who now have a much clearer vision of a career they may wish to pursue upon release. As for Mitchell, he hopes he can take the program to other facilities as well. “I very much appreciate DJJ’s willingness to try this idea that was admittedly a little unusual,” he says. “So far, the results have been substantial, and the personal rewards great.”