The New Idea
Héctor Castillo has created a new type of social space that brings together youth gang members in a community center built by, and primarily serving, this population. Named The Flying Circus, the center has three major goals: to create opportunities for education and training in artistic and technical skills that will help youth gain employment; to provide a space to showcase and spread knowledge of the various aspects of popular juvenile culturemusic, art, literature, and even graffiti art; and to integrate different sectors of society by bringing people together under a common roof to work on projects, enjoy performances, and engage in dialogue about shared concerns and problems.In keeping with the notion that the center would prove far more empowering and viable in the community if managed completely by the young people themselves, Héctor has maintained merely a supervisory and advisory role and served as a liaison between the community and the government. The building and renovation of the Center took almost two years and was planned, organized, and implemented solely by the youth.Through The Flying Circus, Héctor is working to break away from stereotypes of gang youth that label them as violent, delinquent, or addicted to drugs. By demonstrating the productive and creative abilities of the gang members, Héctor is attempting to counter these biases and provide examples of how truly creative, sensitive, and willing to join mainstream society young people are if given the right opportunities. The Flying Circus offers this possibility and provides a model of how other urban centers can develop productive, future-looking strategies for their young people.