Rachel G. Barnard is a social practice artist who uses art to divert young people out of the criminal justice system. In 2011, Ms Barnard founded Young New Yorkers (YNY), an arts diversion program for teens being prosecuted as adults in criminal courts. To date over 1500 young people have been sentenced to make art at YNY instead of jail or other adult sanctions, and most participants have their adult criminal cases dismissed and sealed.
Ms Barnard’s work brings diverse and often adversarial groups of people together to create new spaces of belonging, with the conviction that connections made within and between communities have the potential to expand empathy and shift cultures of exclusion. Each YNY program culminates in a public art project conceived and designed by participants in collaboration with Barnard to address a criminal legal issue of their choice. Teens then invite the very criminal legal professionals involved in their sentencing to attend, humanising the culture of the courtroom with each project.
As part of the 2018 NYC Department of Cultural Affairs’ Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) Program as well as a fellowship for Socially-Engaged Art from A Blade of Grass, Ms Barnard is currently working to create The Fair, a project focused on fostering transformational relationships between Department of Probation officers and clients. She is also building a new company and working on an intuitive art experience called ‘Mapping’. Since January 2022, Ms Barnard is the Founder and CEO of a cardboard toy company, BigBrainBox.org, with the goal of “Toys for now [not forever]”.
Ms Barnard holds a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Architecture from The University of Queensland.