Art Forward uses art to connect CWRU to Cleveland youth


Courtesy of Art Forward CWRU Facebook

Art Forward enables students to work on art projects with the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center.

Kate Caforio, Contributing Reporter

The Coffee House at University Circle has long served as a hub for Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Institute of Music and Cleveland Institute of Art faculty and students alike. Upon walking in, there is a buzz of energy and conversation amidst the smell of freshly brewed coffee. However, now until the last day of classes, The Coffee House will have an extra buzz with an art display organized by Art Forward, a volunteer organization on campus dedicated to building connections with youth living in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center. 

Maybe your residence hall room could use some color on the wall. Or, a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork is just the birthday gift your friend would love. Every wall in The Coffee House has a unique piece of art available for purchase, with everything from paintings to drawings to photographs. 

You might even find some inspiration to study over a cup of coffee and a croissant while looking at the work of first-year student Scott Wang. A pre-dental student and artist, Wang has loved his experiences with Art Forward. 

“I made four pieces for this fundraiser,” said Wang. “Being able to use art to promote social justice has been really meaningful. The art funds are for raising scholarship for the juveniles in the detention center who intend to go to college afterwards. I hope that the art I’ve made will make an impact on youth who value education as a key component in their lives.”

Art Forward applies the principles of creativity to promote the development of interpersonal skills and self-expression. It is sometimes easier to express emotion and understand another’s perspective through art instead of words, no matter an individual’s artistic talents. 


Art Forward volunteers work to engage with the youth of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center in a way that provides freedom to the residents through art. But another goal is to help the youth in the detention center put their best foot forward for the next step of their lives. 

Just as high school students are constantly curious about what life is like as a college student, curious residents often ask Art Forward volunteers questions about their college experience and the college process.  

For many individuals, college comes at a price that makes it hard to attain. As a way to encourage those in the detention center to feel as though college is a tangible possibility for them, Art Forward has their annual scholarship fund. All proceeds from artwork purchases go directly to this cause, from the small, $7 canvases to larger pieces going for over $200.

Employees of The Coffee House described how all the new art on the walls is a welcome change of pace, and that there are so many pieces that they have barely had the time to look at them all yet.

“It’s everywhere, and they said there’s more coming,” exclaimed one of the employees behind the counter. 

Another employee’s favorite piece hangs along the staircase to the second floor and is by artist second-year student Olivia O’Brien, entitled “Poeny Field.”  The second floor of the Coffee House is typically quieter and dedicated as a workspace. There are smaller study rooms and larger collaborative spaces that resonate with the sound of laptop keys and the ever-present rustle of binders and textbooks. Studying on the second floor now looks a little different, as the artwork is also displayed upstairs, adding pops of colors to the wall. 

“Since I’ve been here, there’s never been art in the study rooms, so that’s pretty cool,” said one barista. 

The general consensus of The Coffee House employees was excitement and gratitude about the art display. “We really appreciate the opportunity to host the display, and we love having all the artwork around,” they all agreed. 

The Coffee House is already a place many people go to put in some solid study hours, relax or catch up with friends. Through fundraising displays like Art Forward, more steps can be taken to allow future college students to build the same connections that the campus community builds over a cup of coffee.