Jonathan Favero

As an artist I am regularly concerned with the audience, or my public. I compose what most would call “classical music,” so it probably goes without saying that my public in that realm is, unfortunately, pretty small, and often not too diverse (i.e., sometimes it’s only other composers).  All of us in the public scholars program are writers, and here too we consider our public, who in most cases is made-up of our colleagues. Perhaps, the regularity of audiences being other academics is why we often speak of “the public at-large” as some sort of Other that exists beyond the borders of the academy. But, many of us teach, and here we encounter a broader, relatively more assorted public that makes these so-called borders more pliable and porous, as teaching presents an abstract idea of what the public means, how far it reaches, and the exponential possibilities there in. This reminds us that the academy, and all of us in it, are part of the public, or at least, a public that engages with other publics, that together affect other publics, and so on, and so on… The public scholars program gives us a lot to think about in these regards of who and/or what is “the public,” as we are challenging these notions of identity and place, and their relationships within and outside all sorts of communities, along with their real, or imaginary borders.

This summer I will be working with the Positive Youth Justice Initiative and the Sierra Health Foundation on a report that addresses standards of care, regulations, and reforms in the California Division of Juvenile Justice. I am looking forward to exploring the concept of the public within this framework, as I am sure my current conception of what it is, and my expectations of what my role will be in it, will likely be accurate in a handful of ways, while simultaneously taking shape within, or being reshaped by the experience, as there is so much for me to learn about this particular public, or this community. Obviously, the people reading the report that I contribute to, whether it’s my supervisor and co-workers, or policy makers and legislatures, or anyone with an interest in reading it, will be an audience, and a type, or types of a public that I will be engaging with. Examining previous reports, policies, and standards, will create another abstract means of public engagement, e.g. interacting with a “past public” so-to-speak. The past and present standards and policies, and data analyses and subsequent reports, will likely lead to interaction with administrators and staff members within the juvenile justice system, and certainly within the PYJI, locally and possibly statewide.

With so many possibilities, this is all quite exciting, for a number of reasons, but foremost because I will be involved in what Matt Cervantes, Senior Program Officer at the Sierra Health Foundation, has described as, “(a) chance to do something transformative” for crossover youths—young people who have experienced trauma and/or maltreatment and currently are engaged in the juvenile justice system. This transformation that Cervantes speaks of is rethinking juvenile justice, and putting the needs of the detained in the forefront, so our justice system becomes less punitive and more supportive, as a majority of the youths involved in the system have faced emotional and physical traumas and abuses, and their needs have too often been neglected. Ultimately, these young people are the public that I will be engaging with; but, they in turn will engage with other publics, including me and my other publics, and all of us will continue engaging with our communities throughout our futures, and so on, and so on… Thus, again, we see an abstract, exponential set of possibilities for public engagement, where the borders are intangible, and the outcomes are limitless.