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Founded in 2016, Assembly offers system-impacted young people aged 18-26 an inroad to art and connections to working artists, while serving as an alternative to incarceration and its intersecting systems of oppression. The curriculum empowers young people to take charge of their own life story and envision a future through art. The program diverts both misdemeanor and felony charges and in 2020 expanded to include a peer-to-peer referral model, allowing us to broaden our reach.


Assembly Cohort

  • 2 hours a week for 6 weeks, case by case
  • Snacks and metrocards provided
  • Multiple cycles Winter-Spring
  • Open only by referral

The cohort program, Maps to Manifest, supports young people through an artistic and leadership development based curriculum. Over the course of this 6 week, in-person, gateway offering, participants will create tangible results in areas of their lives that matter most to them by manifesting their goals. This living curriculum is intended to be flexible and adaptable to the immediate needs and wants of the participants, while serving as peer-to-peer diversion and/or an alternative to incarceration. The holistic relationships formed in the context of this initial Assembly offering build toward an empowered sense of self within a thriving community.

Our aim is to expand the program’s reach by training participants to be leaders and mentors in their own communities and within the program itself—creating shifts that ripple beyond the scope and timeframe of the original work. Empowering previous participants to be facilitators themselves expands the possibility of reducing recidivism for the instructors as well as those whom they will impact in their own communities.

To refer eligible participants, contact KT Kennedy, Youth & Community Organizer at

After cohort members complete Maps to Manifest, participants automatically qualify for Peer Leadership, encouraging deeper engagement.

Peer Leadership

  • Up to 30 weeks, January through August
  • 2+ workshops a week with multiple offerings
  • Paid up to $1,000 a month, snacks and metrocards provided
  • Eligible after successful completion of Cohort cycle

Peer Leadership is a paid program from January through August that offers opportunities for young people ages 18 - 26 to build upon their artmaking, leadership, and advocacy skills. These paid elective opportunities offer deep engagement with Recess artists, skill building workshops in arts education, printmaking, photo & video, advocacy and activism, as well as pathways to employment. Peer Leaders can earn up to $1000 a month for their participation in workshops.

Assembly electives vary each week and are responsive to Assembly youth’s interests, artistic collaborations, and partnership opportunities. They include Assembly or Session public events, art-making workshops, mental health resourcing, financial literacy, professional development, wellness workshops, community partnerships and collaborations, field trips, etc.

Current partners include Summertime Gallery, Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre, Manhattan Theater Company, and more.

Peer Leader Workshops
  • Print shop workshops or open studios teach basic printmaking techniques reinforced through personal projects.

  • Writing workshops include space for conversation, shared writings, deep readings and discussions, and opportunities to perform publicly with community.

  • In photo/video workshops, participants build photo documentation, podcasting, and editing skills, as well as create their own art.

  • Financial education workshops equip Assembly participants with the tools to achieve their financial, investment, and entrepreneurial aspirations.

  • Tattoo workshops offer in depth views into working artists’ practices and hands on skill building in tattooing.


  • 1 year, September through August
  • 16 hours per week
  • Paid hourly, snacks and metrocards provided
  • Eligible after successful completion of Peer Leadership

Launched in 2020, the Assembly Fellowship program serves as a window to deeper engagement with Recess and expanded creative fields, while strengthening self determination, advocacy, and self actualization. After having exhibited a passionate and deep commitment to Assembly, select Peer Leaders transition into the fellowship to experience a robust springboard towards their own personal definition of success and stability, and serve as leaders in the Recess community. Rooted in a “Purpose Path” developed by Rasu Jilani, this program clearly defines a trajectory tailored specifically to the narrative participants see for their future. The Assembly Fellowship program lasts for one full year with a commitment to 16 hours of Recess-related work each week throughout their tenure. Fellows are on Recess payroll and compensated at a staff level.

In addition to all Assembly electives listed above, Fellows design their own schedule with onsite and off site partnerships; open studio time to advance their creative practice; community safety workshops and advocacy campaigns; portfolio development; collective resourcing; arthandling; co-created projects with Session artists; and ongoing leadership opportunities across Assembly.

Fellowship Elements

Session x Assembly

Multiple times a year, Session x Assembly collaborations invite Fellows to explore the possibilities of their own creativity in connection with the specific project’s themes and ideas. Assembly participation varies based on the project, from facilitating drop in art-making to co-creating installations and public events.

Portfolio Development

Portfolio Development, led by a Pratt Fine Art second year MFA candidate, offers Fellows a peer to peer mentorship in the development of individual artistic practice and building a portfolio. Fellows also learn how to safely handle, transport, hang, and dismantle art installation materials. Assisting our artists and professional art handlers in real time, Fellows realize full scale exhibitions and projects.

Weekly Collective Resourcing

Weekly Collective Resourcing creates an intimate space for community care, utilizing group process and creative practice in the exploration of various salient topics in mental health and wellbeing. Themes have included understanding intergenerational legacies of trauma and healing, expanding insight and meaning in one’s intersectional identity and lived experiences, meditation, yoga, and somatic practices for healing racialized trauma.

Educators & Collaborators

Assembly Event & Printshop Collaborator


visionary in global brand and data-based marketing

Youth and Community Organizer

multidisciplinary community engagement artist, educator, resourcer, and youth arts director

Assembly Event & Printshop Collaborator

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FullSizeRender (1).jpg

global strategic leader and cultural impact expert

Inagural Artist Social Worker

Helen is an arts-integration educator & teaching artist practicing clinical social work.

Assembly Educator


storyteller & education designer whose practice combines ethnobotany & plant-based photography

Assembly Educator


multifaceted artist, inspiring educator, and transformative healer.

Assembly Educator

Nena Ugwuomo Headshot.jpg
Nena Ugwuomo Headshot.jpg

closing the racial wealth gap in America by training black and brown youth to build wealth

Assembly Educator

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sz k headshot 2 cropped.jpg

artist, activist, and educator

Abolition & Community Safety Workshops

Utilizing a youth-driven and developed curriculum, Assembly Fellows conduct workshops consisting of a series of visualization and embodiment exercises that challenge preconceived notions, while developing a historical understanding of, policing. The workshops invite outside community members to collectively imagine and learn solutions for conflict and de-escalation techniques—creating a community that is able to establish safety without the use of coercion, policing and violence. These workshops are facilitated by Fellows at partner organizations across NYC. Similarly, Fellows play a critical role in supporting relevant advocacy campaigns or other opportunities to advance abolition as defined by the individual, Assembly, and/or Recess.

Mental Health

Our Assembly program integrates group and one-on-one mental health counseling and facilitates creative activities incorporating emotional healing and narrative therapy grounded in healing-centered, anti-oppressive, and integrative frameworks. Practices center the subjective lived experience of young people and their innate capacity for creativity as resource and resilience, taking from various approaches that include trauma-informed clinical social work and family systems therapy, Somatic Abolitionism, contemplative psychotherapy, and decolonized understandings of wellness and mental health.

Embedded mental health support at Recess restores and maintains our youth’s individual sense of safety, health, and self confidence, and also draws upon the therapeutic power of connection and community as a primary resource for resilience and personal growth. The integration of on-site mental health is a key component of our Assembly programming focused on:

  • Development of healthy relationships in the context of mental health care
  • Trauma-informed/anti-oppressive lens that foregrounds race, while also attending to the intersection of other identities
  • The development of socio-emotional learning both internally and in relation to others
  • The development of an understanding of socio-cultural trauma and oppression on both individual and systemic levels including internalized oppression, intra-racial harm, and colorism


See all

November 11, 2023–January 25, 2024

Session & Assembly Collaboration: BARRO

Marcela Torres and Assembly

Torres in collaboration with Assembly will explore the history of New York through its soil and natural clay deposits.

May - June 2022

For Freedoms: Another Justice By Any Medium Necessary


This For Freedoms billboard campaign will culminate their series of creative programming exploring dimensions of carceral justice.