The William James Association promotes work service in the arts, environment, education, and community development. Our major concern has been transformative arts experiences in nontraditional settings, working with prisoners, high-risk youth and parolees.
The Prison Arts Project contracts with professional artists to provide in-depth, long-term arts experiences for incarcerated men and women. Begun in 1977, the program selects and hires professional visual, literary and performing artists to teach in California state prison facilities. The Prison Arts Project also establishes Artist-In-Residence programs for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The Community Youth Arts Project contracts with professional artists to work with disenfranchised and “at-risk” youth in alternative schools and detention facilities in and around Santa Cruz, CA. The program received national recognition in 1997 as a recipient of the BRAVO art and film cable TV network’s “Arts for Change” Award.
Unlocking hearts and minds with bold, original theatre, Poetic Justice Project is dedicated to the creation of original theatre that examines crime, punishment and redemption.
Through passionate collaboration of formerly incarcerated writers, artists, musicians and actors, we produce ground-breaking theatre that challenges and transforms our culture. The Poetic Justice Project was adopted in 2009 as a program of the William James Association.
The William James Fiscal Sponsorship Program assists emerging nonprofit groups and community organizations by providing grant-related administrative support, tax-exempt status, and fiscal sponsorship.
Current affiliates include:
- TeamWorks Art Mentoring & Apprenticeship Program
- Santa Cruz County Art of Guitar Exhibit & Festival
- Santa Cruz County Writes
- Transition Santa Cruz
- Green Union Community Garden
- The Urban Farmers
- John Brown’s Body at San Quentin State Prison
- Lion’s Pride Farm
- Be Natural Music
- Fund for Local Reporting
- Follow Me Down: Portraits of Lousianna Prison Musicians
The William James Association is a nonprofit, community service corporation founded in 1973 by Page Smith and Paul Lee. The association is named for the American philosopher, William James, who was deeply concerned with the relationship between philosophical thought and social action. In his famous essay, “A Moral Equivalent of War,” James proposed what came to be called “work service” as a substitute for war service.
The William James Association’s original statement of purpose declares, “the Association will direct its attention to developing various forms of peacetime service.” From its inception, the Association has had a strong commitment to some form of national (as well as local and state) work service, modeled, to a degree, on the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930′s. In line with this commitment, the Association helped to launch the California Conservation Corps in 1979.
One of the Association’s early projects was the William James Work Company. With the sponsorship of the Association, unemployed or marginally employed persons organized to facilitate finding jobs. In the five years of the Work Company’s existence, over 30,000 jobs were filled.
The Citizens’ Committee for the Homeless was originally under the William James Association umbrella and was the impetus for the purchase of the River Street Shelter in Santa Cruz, CA. WJA also sponsored A Free Meal, which has become Santa Cruz’s Homeless Community Resource Center. Other projects undertaken by WJA over the years include: the Penny University, Museum Without Walls, Community Gardens, Fruition, the Prison Arts Project, and related arts programs in California Youth Authority, the California Department of Mental Health, and the Santa Cruz County Jail.
Through the vision and efforts of Eloise Smith, the William James Association began the Prison Arts Project in 1977 as a pilot program at the California Medical Facility, a prison in Vacaville, CA. Since that time, WJA has dedicated itself to providing arts experiences to incarcerated individuals in the belief that participation in the artistic process significantly and positively affects one’s view of oneself and the world. WJA’s award-winning Community Youth Arts Project grew out of the Prison Arts Program’s success and the desire to intervene with youths at risk of incarceration or other marginalization.