By Matt Minich
In no way does the inside of the TCAMP studio in Old Town Fort Collins look like it was built to house juvenile delinquents. The walls are devoid of posters warning about the danger of drugs, alcohol or unprotected sex; instead, they are covered almost floor to ceiling with paintings and drawings. Back rooms are filled with musical instruments, recording equipment and a Nintendo Wii.
In short, the TCAMP building is distinctly non-institutional. But that’s just the point. Officially called the Transitional Creative Arts and Mentoring Program, TCAMP was specially designed to provide at-risk teens with an escape from the drab, authoritarian world of the probationary programs that they are thrown into after brushes with law enforcement.
Now three years old, the non-profit is the brainchild of Blake Neubert and Herman Tearman. Both young creatives with complicated pasts and jobs in the Larimer County’s juvenile drug court, they approached county officials with what seemed then like a radical notion.
“They were like, ‘you’re going to do what? Art classes?’” Neubert said. “We really had to prove ourselves.”
And they did. Students who took photography classes from Neubert and Tearman were soon selling their work for one hundred dollars or more, and using that money to pay off court fees or help their families with the bills. Families, kids, and probation officers alike sang the program’s praises.
Soon it grew from a few optional photography classes to a full-blown institution in its own right, complete with art classes, a musical recording studio, and improvisational acting and comedy classes. Now an independent non-profit, TCAMP has served more than 400 young adults and has offices in Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Longmont, and Boulder. The program plans to open a Denver office later this year.
Because juveniles on probation usually participate in several programs at once, the success of programs like TCAMP is hard to measure. That doesn’t give Neubert and Tearman any doubts, however – they’ve seen firsthand how a few hours of creative expression coaxes teens to open up more quickly than weeks of mandatory group therapy.
“If you can sing in front of a room full of people, you can ask for what you need from another person,” Tearman said.
To connect with TCAMP, find them on Facebook or email Blake Neubert at firstname.lastname@example.org.