V.L. Cox, born in Shreveport, Louisiana and later raised in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, is an Arkansas artist who over the years as shown her commitment to public service. Cox currently lives and works in North Little Rockâ€™s Lakewood neighborhood. It is just north of the river that Coxâ€™s public service is more prominently on display. Cox helped found the Argenta Art Walk (as it existed before joining the Argenta Arts Foundation) and served as a Historic District Commissioner, where she helped draft district public art guidelines for the city.
Cox has not limited her service to Argenta. It is her work with juvenile justice system-involved youth at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment Treatment Center in Alexander, Arkansas which really speaks to artâ€™s ability to create change. It also speaks to the impact public service can have on an artist.
As part of the Dream Big Festival of the Arts, about 20 teenagers spent their Spring Break painting murals inside the facilityâ€™s cafeteria with Cox. She designed the murals, the student were given the opportunity to vote on their favorite design, and then they all spent the week working as a team to add an artistic pop to the facility.
Cox acknowledges that a lot of these kids were not fans of one another â€“ often fighting before the start of this project. When asked about the experience, she admits â€śI was actually a little afraid to begin working with kids that were incarcerated at first and had no idea what I was getting into. After the very first hour of meeting them and talking Art, all those worries went away. As the project progressed, I became pretty attached to several of those kids.â€ť The kids showed her the utmost respect, were excited and extremely inquisitive about art and anything that had to do with it. Cox states â€śtheir eager faces and the patience and focus that they showed throughout the project went against everything that was expected of them. We had no fights, no disrespect, no argumentsâ€¦.â€ť
When asked if she plans to continue working with under-served youth, she quickly answers YES and clarifies she â€śprefers the ones that most others have given up on, and something has to be done to stop the horrible ‘Cradle to Prison’ pipeline with the poor and minorities.â€ť
Just as important to Cox, they simply became friends.
Her lesson from this experience: Never Underestimate the Power of the Arts!