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In the fall of 1999, Prison Performing Arts began teaching a series of acting classes part-time at St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center called I’m an Actor. Later that same year, a performance series, Arts Alive!, featuring artists from the St. Louis area, began at St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center.

In 2005, I’m an Actor transitioned into Learning Through the Arts, expanding the scope of classes being offered to include dance, music, visual arts, and writing. That same year, programming began at Hogan Street Regional Youth Center. St. Louis Shakespeare Festival partnered with PPA for the first year of programs at Hogan Street. Prison Performing Arts, Young Audiences of St. Louis (now Springboard to Learning), and the Family Court – Juvenile Division partnered for the first version of the Hip Hop Project during spring break of 2004. PPA and the Family Court continued on with the partnership after 2004. Since then, this program has been held annually during spring break when regular classes are not in session and youth remain in the Center. From 2010 to 2014, a summer version was added offering the program to youth at the Center twice per year. In 2013, PPA created a partnership with the Family Court Detention Alternatives Program, offering programs to youth who aren’t detained but are required to fulfill obligations with the Family Court. In 2016, PPA began working with juveniles who have been certified as adults and a group of young adults at St. Louis City Justice Center. In 2018, PPA expanded programming to youth at St. Louis County Juvenile Detention Center.  



Hip Hop Poetry Project provides intensive performance arts programming — classes, performances, and workshops — during spring break at St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center. Our goal is to have each young person in the facility spend every day of the project in constructive and creative activities. This project provides workshops in writing, performance, design and dance. The youth’s writing is shared through a concluding performance, an anthology, and a music sharing platform (

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Arts Alive! creates partnerships with performing artists and arts organizations in the St. Louis region to provide professional performances of music, dance, opera, and theatre for young people at St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center and Hogan Street Regional Youth Center. In many cases, this is the young people’s first live performance opportunity.


Learning Through the Arts provides year-round after-school and weekend performing arts classes in dance, music, theatre, visual arts, and writing for youth and young people at St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center, Hogan Street Regional Youth Center, St. Louis City Justice Center, St. Louis County Juvenile Detention Center, and with the Family Court’s Detention Alternatives program. Classes are designed to help justice-involved youth learn life skills through participation in the arts including collaboration, commitment, responsibility, and self-expression.

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