Questions of Safety

What does safety look like to you? 

This community engaged public art project centers deep listening and imagined futures. Through one-on-one interactions in public parks, libraries, and schools, children create drawings of what makes them feel safe. Recurring themes include: home, mom, music, super heroes, and health aids (like glasses). The growing archive now includes contributions by over 100 participants from Cleveland and beyond.

Since 2018, artist Megan Young has explored this question in collaboration with her multi-racial children, family, personal networks, and close communities. It recognizes how dominant strategies of safety—including all “safety orange” iconography—are failing our most vulnerable populations and how grassroots networks are left to pick up the pieces. This is abolition work. It champions children’s voices, experiences, and advocacy.

Public engagements display project archives and provide opportunities to contribute. Viewers compare the repository of safety imagery through iterations from drawing to sculpture, or scanned image to digital artifact. As with her larger body of work, Young invites participants to take the lead. Children direct construction of a small 3D-pen printed sculpture to take home (as thanks for participating). Some practice 3D-pen printing techniques on-site. Others explore 3D software, rendering, and animation activities using free, open source tools. During outdoor activities, acrylic prints can be installed and rearranged in nearby public spaces. The many manifestations of these youth-driven visions create a kind of augmented reality, where their desires for safety are fully and truly realized in our communities.

Special Thanks: Michelle Epps, Elaine Hullihen, Christine Lewis, Misty Luminais, Maria Miranda, Michael Rakowitz, Christina Vassallo, Miranda Villard, RA Washington, Grace Wen, and Ashley Wilson

ON VIEW /

  • Cleveland Public Schools (2021)
  • Cleveland Pubic Library (2019, 2020)
  • New Media Caucus Symposium (2019)
  • Casa de la Cultura de Morelia (2019)
  • SPACES (2018)

IMAGE CREDITS /

  • ABOVE: Prototypes for Community Safety, excerpts (2019)
  • MIDDLE: Questions of Safety, installation (2020), photo by Rustin McCann; Safety Objects (2019), all detail photos by Deanna Dionne
  • BOTTOM: Public Safety, installation detail (2020), photos by Evan Prunty, printing by Anna Tararova