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CREATIVE ARTS its impact on people with justice involvement The Fortune Society


THE FORTUNE NEWS A publication from The Fortune Society, printed twice a year to inform the public of the work and impact of Fortune’s reentry services and advocacy.








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The Fortune Society is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2017! Follow us on social media and subscribe to the Fortune Weekly to receive updates about our year-long celebration.





OUR MISSION Learn about our mission, programs, and services





LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Letters from people in prison


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CREATIVE ARTS AT THE FORTUNE SOCIETY Our Creative Arts program offerings LIVINIA’S LIGHT Acting helped Livinia express herself in positive and productive ways FORTUNE BEGAN ON THE STAGE OF A THEATER How the arts creates a path towards acceptance ART AS DEFIANCE Honest conversations on class and race, inspired by the arts

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EACH ONE TEACH ONE Creative writing at The Fortune Society

THE POWER OF CREATIVITY Arts as a positive outlet for creative expression THREE FACES OF FORTUNE Staff, volunteers, and participant experiences USING THEATER AND THE ARTS TO ACTIVATE Arts as a powerful tool for social change DESIGNING FOR A BETTER FUTURE How Richard Rohoman used digital art to tell his story OLIVER’S HIGH NOTE OF SUCCESS Music helped Oliver make deeper connections

THEATER OF, BY, AND FOR THE PEOPLE Building community through theater HARNESSING THE POWER OF MUSIC TO DEVELOP LIFE SKILLS Music and mentorship are key to recovery THE ANIMATION PROJECT Making the arts and technology accessible to all





The Fortune Society’s mission is to support successful reentry from incarceration and promote alternatives to incarceration, thus strengthening the fabric of our communities.

Prepare for Release

We do this by: ƒƒ Believing in the power of individuals to change; ƒƒ Building lives through service programs shaped by the needs and experiences of our participants; and

The Individualized Corrections Achievement Network (I-CAN) program provides skill building and discharge preparation services to eligible individuals during their incarceration at NYC Department of Corrections (DOC) jails, and offers continuing reentry support following their release.

Health Services

ƒƒ Changing minds through education and advocacy to promote the creation of a fair, humane, and truly rehabilitative correctional system.

The Health Services program primarily serves individuals living with HIV/AIDS, by providing vital discharge planning, case management, health education, and connection to quality, community-based treatment and health care.

Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Fortune’s ATI program reduces the prison and jail population, helps thousands of individuals receive holistic, supportive services, and saves taxpayers millions of dollars.



Benefits Application Assistance


The Single Stop program helps participants achieve economic mobility by coordinating access to public benefits available to individuals and families with low incomes, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Supplemental Disability Insurance, and other forms of public assistance.

The Education program empowers students to achieve personal and professional goals, such as acquiring basic literacy skills, earning a High School Equivalency diploma, attending college, or preparing for employment.

Food & Nutrition Fortune offers nutritious, hot meals, and distributes fresh, locally grown produce to participants through partnerships with local farms. The program also offers cooking demonstrations and nutrition education workshops.

Housing Fortune’s Housing model assists justice-involved individuals and their families experiencing homelessness in building better futures through supportive and affordable housing. The program provides low-threshold access to supportive, emergency, transitional, and permanent housing in Fortune’s congregate buildings: The Fortune Academy (“the Castle”) and Castle Gardens, along with our Scatter Site housing program.

Employment Services Fortune’s Employment Services program is designed to equip job seekers with justice involvement with the skills necessary to obtain employment and thrive in the workplace. The program offers job readiness, transitional work, and sector-based skills trainings in Green Construction, Culinary Arts, Job Development, and Transportation (Commercial Drivers License). We also offer job placement assistance and retention services.

Family Services The Family Services program works to unite participants with their loved ones by facilitating healthy parent-child relationships, and providing legal services for custody, visitation, and child support commitments.

Mental Health Treatment Fortune participants have access to a full spectrum of services through our NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH)-licensed Better Living Center, which serves individuals with mental health needs and incarceration histories.

Substance Use Treatment Fortune’s NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS)-licensed outpatient substance use treatment clinic empowers people with substance use histories to heal and recover from addiction or the trauma of incarceration.

Creative Arts Fortune’s Creative Arts program supports the educational, emotional, and cultural development of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system through creative writing, poetry, spoken word, video production, animation, visual arts, music, and theater.

THE DAVID ROTHENBERG CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY In honor of our founder’s tireless efforts to promote the rights and fair treatment of people with justice involvement, Fortune launched The David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) in 2007. DRCPP resources and advances our policy development, advocacy, technical assistance, training, and community education efforts. DRCPP advocates for a fairer criminal justice system, promotes effective program models for people with criminal justice histories, and works to change counterproductive laws and policies that prevent this population from successfully reentering the community.





THE POWER OF CREATIVITY The Fortune Society since our inception. In fact, Fortune was birthed out of the impact of the 1967 off-Broadway play Fortune and Men’s Eyes, which our founder David Rothenberg produced. Originally working on Broadway, with close connections to stars like Alvin Ailey and Elizabeth Taylor, David’s involvement in the arts set our foundation. When I joined Fortune five years ago, we worked to build a deeper level of structure to this rich creative history. Since then, through key partnerships with peopleminded organizations, the Creative Arts program has had tremendous impact on participants in our Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) program and beyond. The kind of positive reinforcement that art provides leads them away from involvement in negative behavior and prepares them for success offstage. Boosts in confidence and self-esteem empower participants to consider new educational prospects or employment opportunities with added levels of comfort. As a result, the next time they go into a job interview, for instance, they’re already used to being center stage.

BY DR. JOHN RUNOWICZ Manager of Creative Arts The Fortune Society

As Fortune’s recognition as a leader in reentry and criminal It was love at first sound when I picked up an instrument at justice reform grows, so do new opportunities to add more age 12. From that moment on, music became a part of who I resources to the Creative Arts roster— we’re always looking am. As a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and ethnomusicologist, to expand. This year, for example, we’ve partnered with my lifelong passion for music shapes the role I play as Road Recovery, an organization that utilizes the power of manager of The Fortune Society’s Creative Arts program. music and peer support to help youth overcome substance Here, participants find harmony between their feelings and use and other adversities. Every Thursday, participants in positive outlets for expressing them. For some, this path our ATI program engage to possibility is a brandnew discovery. Many often “The kind of positive reinforcement in creative workshops that culminate in live music say that before coming to that art provides leads [participants] events and recordings. Fortune, they never had program opportunities to explore away from involvement in negative C o n t i n u e d expansion like this leads creative self-expression. behavior, and prepares them for to increased chances for lasting success within our Luckily, our Creative Arts success offstage.” participants’ lives. Now, the program has many paths anger, anxiety, and loneliness they may feel can be put into for that exploration to occur. Drawing classes are taught songs, theater pieces, drawings, and more. by Guy Woodard, a masterful artist who renders hyperrealistic portraits using just a ballpoint pen. Hip hop dance Now in our 50th year, we look forward to keeping creativity is conducted in partnership with the Mark Morris Dance at the core of our model for successful reentry. Indeed, Group (MMDG), animation workshops are brought by The justice-involved individuals thriving with the skills taught Animation Project (TAP), lessons in theatre are provided through services like our Creative Arts program is sweet with the help of The Public Theater, and we have in-house music that all within the community can enjoy.  classes in creative writing and music. All of these initiatives give our participants a plethora of ways to uncover hidden potential. Such strong elements of creativity have been a core part of




JOB FAIR May 19, 2017

We were honored to host Mayor de Blasio at our Long Island City, Queens location. Here, he announced that by the end of this year, people with justice involvement leaving New York City Department of Correction’s custody will receive reentry services to help connect them with jobs and other opportunities outside of jail, as well as five hours of programming per day during their periods of incarceration. Upon entry, a counselor will assess each incarcerated individual’s needs, and upon release, all will be paired with a peer navigator. Our staff and participants also support Mayor de Blasio’s decision to close Rikers Island within 10 years. 

Our Employment Services program hosted its second annual job fair, where 16 employers met with 150 participants for prospective employment. At the end of the fair, 30 attendants received job offers. Each participant left with new possibilities to thrive, important networking connections, and free suits to tie it all together. 



This year, we kicked off our fourth annual Spring Arts Festival, a month-long celebration of Fortune’s creative spirit and arts programming. The festival provided a space for formerly incarcerated individuals to express themselves through music, drawing, animation, dance, performance art, creative writing, and film. 

Over 250 supporters joined us at our Spring Benefit, which kicked off our yearlong 50th Anniversary celebration. The evening was a great success, raising $180,000 to support the vital reentry services we provide to nearly 7,000 justice-involved individuals each year. Guests were moved by the personal stories of Rory Anderson, Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Irvin Hunt, and Victor Rojas, told through The Castle, a play directed by our founder David Rothenberg. Guests were also inspired by honorees Neil Barsky, Founder and Chairman of The Marshall Project, and Richard Feldman, President of the SHS Foundation. A special thanks to Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, for introducing and presenting Richard Feldman with his award alongside our CEO, JoAnne Page. 





DABNEY HALL Participant


After experiencing justice involvement, the successful position I had in social work before incarceration seemed unattainable. But when I completed Fortune’s job readiness workshop, I was hired as a career advisor in the organization. Here, I found hope again, and discovered true fulfillment.

During my 40-year incarceration, I wrote letters to Fortune. Writing was new for me then, but through it, I found my story. Once I knew who I was, I began setting my own path.

I came to Fortune through a program run by the Jewish Theological Seminary, as part of my Clinical Pastoral Education. My class was the first to work with people with justice involvement. As a chaplain, I live by my faith, which means being a friend to the friendless. I offer a space where participants and staff can seek spiritual guidance, regardless of religious background. I also support Fortune’s Employment Services program by participating in mock interviews, in order to prepare job seekers for meetings with potential employers.

My reentry experience helps me encourage participants to discover their own success. A participant who secured employment once told me, “I just needed to hear that somebody believed in me.” This vital reassurance is not provided within incarceration facilities. Today, I’m more committed than ever to helping participants overcome employment barriers, in spite of inadequacies of the system that incarcerates them. This may mean vocational training through our Culinary Arts or Green Construction programs, or obtaining a High School Equivalency diploma. I remind others that we are not the mistakes we have made. When you come to Fortune, you’re seeking something different. You may just need encouragement to help you move forward. 

This path was marked by a series of life-altering changes that encouraged more self-evaluation. Life became better when, instead of letting others control my feelings, actions, and thoughts, I recognized my own self-worth. Soon, I began studying HIV/AIDS counseling, and became involved with mission-driven organizations. I took advantage of every program available to me. When I finally came to Fortune, I fit right in. I developed a strong bond with The Better Living Center, their mental health clinic for justiceinvolved individuals, and learned to open up to my therapist. Through action, I found purpose, which furthered my resolve to thrive in spite of challenging circumstances. With newfound opportunities, I navigate freedom with positive decision-making skills. The choices I’m making are delivering a better life. Every day, I’m teaching myself to be the man I’m proud of. 


Fortune deeply impacts the lives of the people it serves. I was struck by how quickly I saw participants transform— all it took was a spark of hope. Every need is addressed here, from housing and employment to mentorship and personal growth. Participants find community at Fortune. But for me, the best part of any day here is the comradery— staff work together and support one another. I feel welcomed at Fortune. That feeling has helped me grow into my own skin as a chaplain. 


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR FOUR GUYS WALK INTO A LIBRARY After tutoring, I went into the library to relax. Three other incarcerated individuals were there and I reflected on the financial and economic costs of us being in prison. One of us is a Ph.D. A second guy was a high school science teacher who was in the middle of a National Science Foundationsupported master’s program at the time of his incarceration. A third guy worked in automotive sales and created a comfortable, successful life for his family. When I shared with the geologist that my Ph.D. expenses at University of Chicago and post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University were supported by the National Institutes of Health, he began doing some calculations of my stay at Elkton—$30,000 a year in taxes not paid and lost potential contributions to society during and after my stay at Elkton. He looked at me sheepishly and with a look of surprise noted that my pretrial period, incarceration, and limitations following my prison stint were going to easily cost society over $1,000,000. He pointed out that would pay a teacher’s salary of $50,000 a year for 20 years. I didn’t look at his numbers that closely but I figure that’s about right.

MY WORTH AS A PERSON IS NOT CONTINGENT Like a lot of people, I’ve lived an insecure life. My motivation was often general fear and failure. I exist on the edge of anxiety. As a child, I worried about my family’s future. I worried about satisfying a demanding father. I needed the approval of my teachers and other adults in my life. I worried ridiculously about cultivating friends and not creating enemies. As Andrew Tobias wrote in The Best Little Boy in the World, I knew that one of these days,

LOVE AND PEACE Love is... Trust, respect, and unconditional Peace is... Willingness, kindness, and non-judgmental Love is... Compassion, devotion, and showing that we care Peace is... Joy, happiness, and the ability to share Love is... Seeking the goodness in all that we see Peace is... The bond that we share in our need to be free Love is... Being positive, and remaining grateful Peace is... Encouragement, and being a little less hateful Love is... Hope, understanding, and loyalty Peace is... Faith, consideration, and unity Love is... Listening to others, and showing humility Peace is... Finding common ground, and a 7

certain aspects of my life would be revealed (that I was homosexual, that I come from a modest family, that I must be an imposter), and I feared all would abandon me. I built contingencies. I created a checklist of accomplishments and gave people plenty of reasons to like me, so that when that day came, I could point to those things and say, “Yeah, but don’t these count for something?” I carried that Best Little Boy in the World complex into adulthood. I had to go to the best schools, take demanding university courses, earn all of the awards, get a highly coveted job, create social good, and keep a beautiful home. I resisted conflict and failed to have my needs met because I feared alienating those closest to me. I seemed to always acquiesce. I allowed my worth as a person to be defined by outward pressures and external rewards. I had little sense of my own happiness or my desired purpose in life. I stayed so busy on a treadmill that I never considered if I should get off—much less how I would do it. One friend asked if I ever thought my crime was part of an act of self-sabotage. At those moments when I’m most honest, I think maybe just a little bit of it was. Now I recognize that I have a right to live my own life on my own (legal) terms. I can live in a community of people without being defined by who they need me to be. I get to create what wonderful ways I continue to grow. I can chase my bliss and not fulfill someone else’s vision of how my life should unfold. I was born into this world unique, special, and alive. Those things alone make me worthwhile. Kevin Fuller FSL Elkton, HA PO BOX 10 Lisbon, OH 44432 sense of community Love is... Family, friendship, plus a little integrity Peace is... Character, honesty, and facing adversity Love is... Black, white, and brown Peace is... Sometimes lost, but can always be found Love and peace are one and the same So let’s do a little bit of both, and we can change the game. Nigel Kelly Charlotte Correctional Institution 33123 Oil Well Road Punta Gorda, FL 33955


USING THEATER AND THE ARTS TO ACTIVATE BY DANIELLE ROSARIO Senior Director of Policy The David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy The Fortune Society

Got Dissed,” addressing the neglect, homelessness, and joblessness faced by the veteran community, based on the real-life experiences of the actors. The scenes illustrated the barriers these individuals confronted in their searches for housing and employment. This acting troupe was then asked to participate in the Legislative Theatre Festival, which is a particular type of Forum theatre that brings citizens, legislators, and policymakers together into creative dialogue about the policies and laws that affect communities facing oppression. Their 2016 installment of the festival, titled “The Housing Circus,” fostered a needed conversation about the housing and employment discrimination faced by Fortune’s participants.

issues, leading to a solutions-based conversation for change on various levels. DRCPP and TONYC are partnering again in July 2017 to facilitate an acting troupe of young adults, who will craft a performance piece to express their experiences with the justice system and advocate for necessary reform.

At some point in your life, you were likely instructed to try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Generally, this is suggested as a method to help people consider perspectives beyond their own, in order to see multiple As these examples show, art is a aspects of a situation. It’s a good powerful instrument of advocacy. practice: Finding effective solutions The act of creating art can be equally often requires us to think outside of powerful to self-healing. Telling one’s our immediate experiences. By seeing story can help overcome past traumas. ourselves in others, we aim to better One member of our theatre troupe, a understand realities that are different former Fortune participant named from our own. That’s why acting is Jerry, spoke on this subject at a public such a powerful tool for social change. rally on the steps of New York City Empathy motivates action. The very Hall. Jerry explained to the crowd existence of The Fortune Society that using his experiences of “Art is a powerful instrument of is proof. advocacy. The act of creating housing discrimination to educate The story of Fortune begins with a others helped him ease the pain and play. Fifty years ago, our founder art can be equally powerful to embarrassment he felt with each David Rothenberg read the script self-healing.” rejection. to Fortune and Men’s Eyes, a The testimonies of Fortune theatrical tale of incarceration so Our theatre troupe shared their participants like Jerry and our theatre harrowing it changed his life course experiences with discrimination troupe embody the reasons why the completely. Originally a Broadway openly, and after each show invited arts are essential to Fortune’s mission. producer, he became an advocate audience members onstage to navigate At The Fortune Society, we are for systemic reform. Today, Fortune through the stories themselves. dedicated to helping our participants is using theater and the arts to help What could be done differently to confront the many obstacles to policymakers take a similar stand. offer alternative responses to these reentry: from social prejudice, to the systemic problems on an individual, And we’re succeeding. pangs of rejection, to policy barriers. institutional, or policy level? The Utilizing the creative arts as part of In May 2016, the David Rothenberg policymakers in the audience offered our programming and advocacy model Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) feedback in real time, presented the is one way we guide our participants partnered with Theater of the proposals generated to the NYC toward being their own advocates for Oppressed NYC (TONYC) to Council representatives, and then the change.  organize a troupe of Fortune audience voted on whether or not to participants and staff, most of whom carry these ideas forward. The scenes were formerly incarcerated veterans. presented at the Legislative Theatre Together, we created a forum play were a catalyst to ignite deeper entitled “Honorable Discharge: We exploration and discussion of the




CREATIVE ARTS AT THE FORTUNE SOCIETY In recent years, we have continued to integrate our Creative Arts program into a number of other services we offer, including Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI), Education, Treatment Services, and Housing. This integration promotes learning in new and exciting ways.

our participants’ overall wellbeing. In addition, we have innovatively educated the community at-large about the need for criminal justice reform, and brought the perspectives of formerly incarcerated artists into New York City’s arts and culture sector.

In 2016, we continued expanding our Creative Arts program, helping over 200 participants develop new skills and explore healthy paths to creative expression. We have also worked to maximize strategic partnerships with established artists and creative organizations, further contributing to

Through these efforts, we aim to increase diversity in NYC’s arts and culture sector, and expose our participants to professional artists, formal and informal arts education programs, and viable pathways to careers in arts and culture industries.




The Public Theater/Public Works

Since 2010, we have partnered with The Public Theater to give our participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in the theater arts. 2013, the inaugural year of the theater’s PUBLIC WORKS initiative, culminated with a three-night production of The Tempest in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. Since then, we have continued this extraordinary partnership, with Fortune participants and staff being cast in the theater’s production of The Odyssey in 2015 and Twelfth Night in 2016. Through these experiences, members of the Fortune community have worked alongside renowned individuals in the theater arts, including Tony-nominated actor Brandon Victor Dixon, director

Kwame Kwei-Armah, and composer, lyricist, and performer Shaina Taub. In partnership with The Public Theater, we also offer acting classes to our participants, which culminates in a performance at our annual Spring Arts Festival. Through speech exercises and the exploration of different theater roles, participants improve their selfawareness, plus communication and public speaking skills, all of which are essential for successful reentry. 2

Theater of the Oppressed NYC

Theatre of the Oppressed NYC (TONYC) forms theater troupes with community members who face pressing socioeconomic, health, and human rights issues. These troupes devise and perform plays based on their real-life struggles. After each performance, actors and audiences engage in theatrical brainstorming called Forum Theatre, with the goal of generating creative change at individual, community, and political levels. The Castle Play The Castle play is an original Fortune production directed by David Rothenberg, and co-written and performed by former residents of The Fortune Academy (“the Castle”), our transitional housing facility in West Harlem. David first directed the groundbreaking play in 2008, and it played Off-Broadway for over a year. Featuring personal accounts of formerly incarcerated individuals who lived at “the Castle,” David continues to direct the play, not only in New York City but across the country, in prisons, universities, churches, and other community-based organizations.


individual and gifted artist, came to Fortune in 2015 as a teacher. Last year, over 200 Fortune participants, mainly those in our Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) program, participated in his drawing classes. Guy teaches them how to achieve their hopes and dreams through art. “Start from one point,” he says, “Everything will come from that one point.” For his students, this first lesson is powerful: It transforms wishes into tangible reminders. Under Guy’s instruction, they draw the apartment they hope to have and the communities they find acceptance in. This creative process not only helps them envision paths forward, but often changes their outlook on art. Hidden talents are discovered, self-esteems are strengthened, and personal identities are explored in new ways. Guy’s class is a good example of how art can be used to successfully impact participants that may have difficulty engaging in other settings. Partnerships: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and New Museum Since 2007, MoMA’s Community Partnership program has worked with nonprofit and community-based organizations throughout New York City to create new ways of accessing MoMA’s collection. We’re honored to be among those involved, and have participated in several of MoMA‘s Community Partner Art Shows. We have also planned group visits to MoMA studios and gallery spaces at MoMa and the New Museum, offering our participants opportunities to discuss and create art as a community. We look forward to continue working with MoMA and the New Museum, and giving more participants a glimpse into art that has shaped the world.





Drawing Classes

Guy Woodard, a formerly incarcerated VOLUME XLIX • JUNE 2017


techniques, and strengthen their own writing skills. Though students may be at varying reading and writing levels, they engage at their own pace, and share the experience of learning and growing as a group.




Keyboarding & Singing Lessons

Since 2012, Fortune has offered weekly keyboard and voice classes for individuals and groups. Today, these classes are taught by our Manager of Creative Arts, John Runowicz, and focus on building basic techniques and developing original music. Through instruction and collaboration, students build confidence and positive relationships. In 2016, over 140 participants attended these classes. In the future, we hope to expand our class offerings to include guitar instruction.

and recording projects. Working with Road Recovery’s creative staff, participants find musical ways to tell their stories – lyric by lyric. 5

Music Cafe

Each month, participants, staff members, and others with a passion for music have a chance to perform at our monthly Music Café, led by John Runowicz. Held during lunch time at our Long Island City, Queens offices, these individuals share live music for the entire Fortune community to enjoy.



Creative Writing

Since 1998, Road Recovery has been dedicated to helping young people battle substance use and other adversities by harnessing the influence of entertainment industry professionals who have confronted similar crises and now wish to share their experience, knowledge, and resources. Through their Road Trax program, they offer participants in our ATI program creative workshops, handson mentorship training, educational performance workshops, peer-support networking, and opportunities to create and present live-concert events

Jamie Maleszka is a freelance writer from New York City who has written for several publications, including The Brooklyn Rail, Mass Appeal, and The Playlist. Her creative writing workshop at Fortune begins with group readings, followed by discussions designed to encourage the group to find parallels between what was read and their own lives. They then share those parallels through written works. The class is an open and supportive environment where participants can engage with powerful writing, understand different writing



Hip Hop Dance Classes

Founded in 1996, The Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) provides educational opportunities in dance and music to people of all ages and abilities. 10 participants from our ATI program enrolled in this new offering, and the initial feedback from this group was extremely positive. Through this program, participants find freedom in a new form of creative expression, and build confidence through movement.

VIDEO PRODUCTION Animation Classes The Animation Project (TAP) is a NYC-based nonprofit arts organization that works to nurture the social, emotional, and cognitive growth of atrisk youth, using digital art technology as a therapeutic medium and a workforce development tool. Over the years, this remarkable organization has become one of our strongest Creative Arts partners, equipping dozens of participants with animation skills at our main service center in Long Island City, Queens. Participant engagement in their 16-week class is extremely high. Since the partnership began, Fortune participants have produced over 20 animated videos. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT FORTUNE’S CREATIVE ARTS PROGRAM, please contact John Runowicz at jrunowicz@fortunesociety.org, or call 347.510.3665. 


When I was younger, I wasn’t focused on being creative. I was out on the street hustling, and didn’t listen to anyone. But when I came to The Fortune Society, I found a different path. Here, I discovered my creative compass and, through it, the course of my life changed. Working with The Animation Project (TAP), one of Fortune’s Creative Arts partners, I learned how to use digital art technology to tell my story. Initially I was intimidated, because I had limited computer and design skills. But by working with TAP’s professional staff and my fellow program participants, I soon fell in love with video and animation. I became the first one to arrive at group, and assisted on all our projects. With the software we learned, it felt as if I could do anything. Now, with my horizons broadened, I know that life is more than just about being in the streets— I have the capacity to thrive, too. The Fortune Society and TAP gave And I want to start my own company became so much more than that. I feel me university-level training. Within someday, developing video games and like a completely new person, and two years of joining the program, sitcoms. want others to experience that same TAP saw my dedication and offered transformation. Luckily, Fortune me an internship to continue and TAP’s compassionate staff honing my skills. I am now a “When I came to The Fortune have not only helped me reach lead animator for them, and am so proud of how far I’ve come. Society, I found a different path. professional goals, but also me to volunteer and Here, I discovered my creative encourage give back to my community. Without the Creative Arts program at Fortune, I would compass and, through it, the I love teaching other TAP have been headed down an course of my life changed.” participants what I know. Their unproductive path. Instead, faces light up when they realize today I have clear goals that I’d I initially came to Fortune to avoid what they’re capable of— it’s a feeling like to achieve. I hope to soon learn further justice involvement, and that I know well.  the Adobe Creative Suite software, thought that I’d leave as soon as I including Premiere Pro, plus other completed the program. But it quickly state-of-the-art animation software. VOLUME XLIX • JUNE 2017


LIVINIA’S LIGHT BY LIVINIA NOLLEY Participant The Fortune Society

My acting style comes from a place of truth. It can be raw; it can be refined, but it’s real— and it’s all me. Before coming to Fortune, I never performed in front of a large crowd. Yet in the four months that I’ve been a participant here, I’ve tapped into new forms of expression that I didn’t know were there. People have always said to me, “Livinia, you’re this person who brings light into a room.” I didn’t understand what they meant before, but now I do. For the first time, 13

I see myself as an actress, and it is a blessing. My journey has been challenging, though. Throughout my life, I experienced issues with socialization: I’d get easily frustrated, and was seen as confrontational. But at Fortune, I’ve discovered how to express myself without getting aggressive. Tia James and Shariffa Ali, teachers at The Public Theater, one of Fortune’s Creative Arts partners, taught me acting techniques that I soon began applying to real-life situations. The impact this has made is nothing short of miraculous. With creativity, I’ve uncovered ways to move beyond my past. Fortune’s kind, nurturing, and professional staff have guided me in this process. They’ve created an environment that has shown me how to love again. With each program that I’ve been a part of, from Education to Employment WWW.FORTUNESOCIETY.ORG

Services, to music, animation, and theatre within Creative Arts, I’ve found a second family. I genuinely look forward to coming here each day, and have yet to miss one. As a justice-involved individual, I know that change can only occur once you intentionally step into it. By utilizing the resources that Fortune provides, you will experience that change. I encourage anyone who shares my history with justice involvement to come here. Fortune truly helps people that the system has failed. Today, this is just the beginning for Livinia the actress. I plan to further my career and creative pursuits, and continue bringing light to others. Now that I’ve uncovered my creative talents at Fortune, my future is brighter than ever. 


musicians who really know the ins and outs of music. The lessons they teach are like diamonds to me.

BY OLIVER TERRERO Participant The Fortune Society

When I’m playing the keyboard or producing beats, I get lost in the moment. Music helps me express whatever I’m going through— it’s a cool sensation. I’d describe my musical style as mystical. It’s space-y, and leaves you feeling free, as if you’re floating in the universe. Without The Fortune Society, though, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the freedom I have now. About six months ago, I became involved with the criminal justice system. Luckily, a family friend works here, and encouraged me to enroll.

Since joining Fortune, I’ve gotten more comfortable with opening up and sharing, and I’ve appreciated being a part of something bigger than myself. Before we had our big show, the musicians we worked with encouraged us to just put our best foot forward, and let go of fear and shyness. Support like that showed me that it’s a team effort here, and that means a lot to me. It felt especially good when we were all just jamming out. We’d just freestyle and come up with cool things in the moment. There’s no need for words then— the music speaks for us. Deeper connections are built that way.

Fortune gives people opportunities to piece their lives back Fortune’s Creative Arts program gave me an avenue to focus together. When I first joined, I met with John Runowicz, my attention on something other than negative behavior. manager of their Creative Arts program. He encouraged Here, I focus on the music, me to take part in the keyboard classes that they “Fortune’s Creative Arts program gave instead, and that’s been transformative. The shift have available. From there, me an avenue to focus my attention on in attention was essential I joined Road Recovery’s Road Trax program, something other than negative behavior. for me. which connects young Here, I focus on the music, instead, and Today, I am inspired to people to professional that’s been transformative.” practice music on my own musicians with similar life even more, and master experiences. At the end of what I love to do. I’ve had a lot of fun at Fortune, and would the program, we held a concert at Fortune’s Long Island City join more Creative Arts programs again in a heartbeat. With headquarters, showcasing the music we created together. the connections I’ve gained here, my future is filled with possibility.  It feels great to spend time with participants and staff who understand where I’m coming from. We talk to each other about our lives and what we’re struggling with. We laugh and have fun, too. Plus, we get to play with professional




In 1967, I was working as a publicist and producer. What I knew about prisons could have filled a thimble. At the time, my frame of reference were old Warner Bros. movies, where incarcerated people rioted or tried to escape. It was when I read the play Fortune and Men’s Eyes (FAME) that my education began. The play told the story of a teenage boy who was raped the first night he entered a juvenile facility. I sent the playwright a letter telling him, “I felt as if I was locked in a room with four cobras.” The play’s author, John Herbert, told me that this was his story, and writing the play was a cathartic experience, one that allowed him to confront and conquer his demons. I set to work bringing John’s story to the stage. But as the actors formed their characters, they sought reality. So, I joined them on a visit to Rikers Island. It was my first visit to a penal institution. In the half-century since that first visit, I have been on Rikers Island dozens of times. I have visited state, county, and federal jails and prisons across the country. I have also visited prisons in foreign countries— in England, Italy, Germany, and Nicaragua. My initial impression is unchanged: Our prison system is “an exercise in institutional futility.” It shows that our need to punish is greater than the need to solve our problems. The failures of our prisons only perpetuate imprisonment. I recently read that a New York City councilmember protested that the woman’s unit on Rikers Island had a 15

dance class. Resistance to art programs derives from a faulted system that identifies incarcerated persons solely by their conviction. Fortune Associate Vice President of Housing Sam Rivera states, “The crime is what I did. It is not who I am.” Sam, now a senior staff member, came to Fortune in 1991, out of prison. He is clearly much more than the number he was given. The thirst to create can have a small but vital effect on an incarcerated person as they struggle to cling to their humanity. Early in Fortune’s life (1968), I became acquainted with Stanley Eldridge, an 18-year old who discovered poetry while imprisoned on Rikers Island. His work was beautiful and reflective. It revealed that a young man could transcend the pain and boredom of jail through creativity. Poetry also provided a path for Stanley when he left Rikers Island. The Fortune Society published Stanley’s poems in a book Return Me To My Mind. Upon his release, he had a financial safety net and joined an organization that celebrated his gifts. Though he had been in and out of institutions since he was 7 years old, Stanley never returned to prison after his poetry was well received by the community.

obstacles, found art as their salvation. These men painted their way out of prison. Today, their work can be found in New York art galleries. Joe Assadourian created the play The Bullpen as a member of Richard Hoehler’s class in Otisville Prison, New York. His assignment was to create a scene from his worst life experience. Joe knew immediately that his first trip to the bullpen, upon arrest, was a nightmare with dramatic possibilities. His play ran Off-Broadway for a year. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. In the United States, we know how important the arts are to students. They are an accepted part of the curriculum at any prestigious private academy and public school. The hunger to create through music, dance, and art is no less a part of the men and women on Rikers Island or the hundreds who visit Fortune each week. One night, at a showing of The Castle play, an audience member declared, “You have difficult lives, filled with pain and punishment, and you are brave to share it with us. But with all the negative parts of your life, how does it feel to receive applause?”

There are wheelbarrows full of stories that illustrate the rehabilitative power of the arts for those who’ve experienced incarceration. Actor Charles Dutton first began reading plays when he was in solitary confinement in a Maryland prison. Charles, who later starred in the television sitcom Roc, read aloud to himself while in solitary confinement.

The cast considered the question. The play was their path to acceptance. Poetry was Stanley Eldridge’s as painting was to Anthony Papa and Guy Woodard, and as theater was to Charles Dutton and Joe Assadourian. To use the arts, to dig deep into yourself, is a liberating experience. A play started The Fortune Society, so we know the role that the arts has in creating new opportunities.

Artists Anthony Papa and Guy Woodard both, despite enormous

And besides, everyone deserves a little applause. 


THEATER OF, BY, AND FOR THE PEOPLE BY SHARIFFA ALI Community Impact Coordinator Public Works

“At the prospect of dancing in The Tempest, at first I said to myself, ‘There’s no way you can do this! You have been to the rehearsals, but there’s no way you can do it.’ But then I just kept coming and kept coming and kept coming...” says Alfreda Small of Brownsville Recreation Center. PUBLIC WORKS is a major initiative of The Public Theater that seeks to engage the people of New York by making them creators and not just spectators. PUBLIC WORKS is founded on a 360° transformational experience of theater: making theater, seeing theater, and discussing theater. Working deeply with The Fortune Society and other partner organizations in all five boroughs, PUBLIC WORKS invites members of diverse communities to participate in workshops, take a variety of free weekly classes, attend performances, join us for dinners and other events, and, most importantly, collaborate in the creation of ambitious works of participatory theater.

Our strong Community Partnerships contribute to the full range of Public Theater programming events, in such places as Joe’s Pub, Shakespeare in the Park, Public Forum, and the Mobile Shakespeare Unit. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Lear de Bessonet and Director Laurie Woolery, PUBLIC WORKS deliberately blurs the line between professional artists and community members, creating theater that is not only for the people, but by and of the people, as well. Our aim is to restore and build community by connecting people through theater, both by performing it and experiencing it, and reminding us that we’re all in this together.  Learn more about Public Works: ƒƒ Website: publictheater.org/Programs-Events/Public-Works/ ƒƒ Facebook: facebook.com/groups/ publictheater.publicworks/

ART AS DEFIANCE SHELLYNE RODRIGUEZ Community and Access Educator Museum of Modern Art

This year, the students at Fortune worked together to create drawings inspired by James Rosenquist’s iconic painting F-111, now on exhibit at the MoMA. Rosenquist is known for his critical take on American consumer culture and the violence at its root. His critique set the foundation for in-class discussions about how this culture has come to shape our lives. Honest conversations about racial and class inequalities were brought to the forefront as we assessed the ways poor and working-class people of color disproportionately suffer the consequences of consumerism.

As they reflected on Rosenquist’s work, our students took their analysis further. They caught a contradiction: Though Rosenquist’s work advocated for a fairer world, it was on display at an institution that was only accessible to some. Was this true advocacy? Could a museum be a source of cultural change? Questions like these characterized the depth of our classroom discussions.  Learn more about MoMA: ƒƒ Website: moma.org ƒƒ Facebook: facebook.com/MuseumofModernArt




Road Recovery, a non-profit organization founded in 1998, is dedicated to helping young people battle addiction and other adversities. It does so by harnessing the influence of entertainment industry professionals who have confronted similar crises and now wish to share their experience, knowledge, and resources by collaborating with young people to create and present live-concert events and recording projects. Road Recovery has worked closely with New York’s respected residential treatment centers, foster care agencies, and Sing Sing Correctional Facility to help reach over 50,000 at-risk young adults. Beginning in January 2017, thanks to support from The Pinkerton Foundation, Road Recovery established a year-long program partnership with The Fortune Society and their Creative Arts program for young adults engaged in the Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) program. Every Thursday, sessions commence with peer-support meetings, where participants and Road Recovery’s staff share the ups and downs of their personal adversities. This communal openness leads into music workshops, such as songwriting, instrument instruction, and studio programming, where the group creates, designs, and rehearses for concert performances and recording projects.  Road Recovery offers participants the opportunity to develop the positive life skills needed to achieve short and long-term goals as an alternative to the negative behaviors that may have been exhibited in their past. Their tailored program also sets to achieve several goals set by The Fortune Society under the direction of John Runowicz. Some of their aims include providing mentorship to build positive relationships between Road Recovery’s staff and participants, in order to help each other achieve their goals. They also seek to provide access to entertainment industry professionals who are well-established in their recovery from their adversities, and who are willing to share their life skills and wisdom so participants can learn from others like them. Lastly, Road Recovery seeks to bring ATI participants together on a consistent, weekly basis in a positive way through the process of creating, planning, and presenting


live-concert events and recording projects with professional stage, sound, and lights. Road Recovery is grateful to The Pinkerton Foundation for this opportunity to partner with The Fortune Society, in order to provide justice-involved youth with life-stabilizing activities, share life skills, and engage in creative arts and other live performance components. The final performance of each group serves as a powerful, self-empowering achievement on their path to leading crime-free and productive lives.  Learn more about Road Recovery: ƒƒ Website: roadrecovery.org ƒƒ Facebook: facebook.com/roadrecovery


EACH ONE TEACH ONE CREATIVE WRITING AT THE FORTUNE SOCIETY “Think you’d be up to write with us?” Any hesitation she may have had melted. “Yes, Miss. I can do that, Miss.” She stared down the blank page handed to her. And she wrote. Just like that. And when she shared her piece out loud– fearless in volunteering to read first– she stood in her words. She owned those words. She wrote about how others perceive her. She wrote about her time on Rikers Island. And with unblinking might, she wrote about finding power after the horror of sexual abuse. She walked into a room of strangers, shared her truth, and killed it. BY JAMIE MALESZKA Teacher

I was out of my seat, applauding, cheering; the boys all doing the same.

Sometimes, the hardest part of writing can simply be starting. But on that day, our creative writing session at Fortune was well under way. Each young man was scribbling intensely, heeding that nah-I-need-to-say-this moment. Their lived experiences and words were tumbling out, and began to ornament their pages. The only sound in the room: the syncopated tap-tap-tap of pens meeting paper. There were four of us that day. The verses of Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” were the jump-off points into our own writing. I said when the lights shut off / And it’s my turn to settle down / My main concern / Promise that you will sing about me.

“Was that something that you had already written? Something you always had in mind?” “No, Miss. It just came out. I guess I’ve just been waiting for somebody to ask me.” I’ve just been waiting for somebody to ask me. That statement right there, that’s arts programing– facilitating a there’s-always-a-place-for-you invitation to tell your story. The full story. The arts– be it spitting bars, writing a poem, dance, or drawing– is a means by which we can right our futures and better understand the whys of our past. And in the sharing of our stories, we all learn. We are all bettered. Each one teaches one. 

The classroom door opened slightly. She popped her head in. “Oh. Sorry, Miss. I was looking to finish my drawing assignment.” Our sessions meet in Fortune’s art room. Sketches, paintings, and works-in-progress polka dot the walls.

Learn more about Jamie Maleszka: ƒƒ Website: jamiemaleszka.com ƒƒ Twitter: twitter.com/ jmaleszka

“Please, c’mon in. Join us,” I said. Though outlined with caution, her curiosity was undeniable. She took a seat.




BY MEREDITH DEAN Clinical Program Director The Animation Project

Take a peek into the computer lab at The Fortune Society and you’ll discover a mini-production studio hard at work on their next animated film. Welcome to The Animation Project (TAP), part of a system-wide effort to change the lives of justice-involved youth. In our 3D animation therapy groups, young people work as a team to produce an original, computer-animated video. Since 2013, TAP has partnered with Fortune’s Education and Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) programs. Each group is co-led by a licensed creative arts therapist and a professional digital animator. TAP’s innovative approach to engaging youth starts with our technological component: The industry-standard software captures participants’ attention and serves as a compelling vehicle for self-expression, self-discovery, and technical skill acquisition. TAP is also designed to encourage participants to explore the therapeutic process of collaborative decision-making, practice impulse control, and foster emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal skills– and have fun while they’re at it! From the beginning, TAP participants are treated as artists and professionals, a notable shift from the roles they are so often assigned in the criminal justice system and in their communities: “bad kid,” “lost one,” “delinquent.”


Our programs culminate with a public screening, which is an opportunity for participants to own their professional personas and share what they’ve learned with their community. When combined with therapeutic interventions, computer animation is a medium tailor-made for young adults to develop their professional roles, build their resumes, and cultivate the skills needed for careers in film production, video game development, and more. In 2016, TAP launched a paid internship program comprised of youth who have participated in our groups. TAP has had the privilege of hiring seven interns from our groups at Fortune, one of whom, Richard Rohoman (profiled in this issue), was recently promoted to Lead Animator. The internship program has become a key component of the ecology of our model, geared toward making meaningful and sustainable changes in the lives of young adults in our city. TAP is proud to partner with The Fortune Society in our shared goal of making the arts and technology accessible to all.  Learn more about The Animation Project: ƒƒ Website: theanimationproject.org/ ƒƒ Facebook: facebook.com/The-AnimationProject-Inc-132584263457205/



Jean Bach was a dear friend of mine, a tremendous supporter of The Fortune Society, and a lovely woman who touched so many people’s lives. In remembering her passing a few years ago, I wanted to share a bit of her story, and the impact she made on Fortune and others. Jean recognized the importance of second chances for formerly incarcerated individuals as soon as Fortune began in 1967. We met five years earlier, when she was the producer of the popular Arlene Francis Show on WOR radio. When Fortune began, she arranged for several of our participants to be guests on the show, giving the public an opportunity to reconsider the stereotypes and obstacles many face upon release from incarceration. She was also a member of our first Board of Directors and, in 1968, hosted our first fundraising party. The parties she hosted in her West Village townhouse were legendary— Jean invited people from all walks of life to learn about Fortune. Some notable guests included Dizzie Gillespie, Congressman Ed Koch, Bobby Short, Judge Bruce Wright, Flo Kennedy, Annie Ross, Liz Smith, and dozens of others.

Join Jean Bach and myself in ensuring the future of The Fortune Society by considering a gift in your will or estate. To learn more about joining our legacy society, David’s Circle, please contact Kristin Pulkkinen at 347.510.3607 or kpulkkinen@fortunesociety.org.

Beyond her hosting talents, Jean was also my friend and confidant. We shared a passion for addressing the social and political indignities that compromised our democracy. We loved the theater, jazz (she produced the Oscar-nominated documentary, A Great Day in Harlem, which celebrated jazz legends), New York Knicks games, and political debates. But most of all, we always shared laughter that helped us gain new perspectives on life’s foibles. My last visit with Jean was painful– her health had been failing for several months at that point. I knew it would be the final time that I would see her. Though she could no longer speak, she still blew me a kiss. It was an emotional goodbye. I was greatly moved when I was informed that she asked that I be one of the eulogists at her memorial. Soon after, I received a call informing me that Jean had left a generous grant to The Fortune Society in her will. She always told me that it was important to make sure that we helped the things that matter— even after we left the planet. Thank you, Jean. You would be so proud of what Fortune is doing these days. 



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The Fortune News: June 2017 - Creative Arts  

The latest issue of The Fortune News highlights Fortune's Creative Arts program, which provides our participants with creative paths for sel...

The Fortune News: June 2017 - Creative Arts  

The latest issue of The Fortune News highlights Fortune's Creative Arts program, which provides our participants with creative paths for sel...