Background: Engaging youth and incorporating their unique expertise into the research process is important when addressing issues related to their health. Visual Voices is an arts-based participatory data collection method designed to work together with young people and communities to collaboratively elicit, examine, and celebrate the perspectives of youth.
Objectives: To present a process for using the creative arts with young people as a participatory data collection method and to give examples of their perspectives on safety and violence.
Methods: Using the creative arts, this study examined and illustrates the perspectives of how community factors influence safety and violence. Visual Voices was conducted with a total of 22 African-American youth in two urban neighborhoods. This method included creative arts-based writing, drawing, and painting activities designed to yield culturally relevant data generated and explored by youth. Qualitative data were captured through the creative content of writings, drawings, and paintings created by the youths as well as transcripts from audio recorded group discussion. Data was analyzed for thematic content and triangulated across traditional and nontraditional mediums. Findings were interpreted with participants and shared publicly for further reflection and utilization.
Conclusion: The youth participants identified a range of issues related to community factors, community safety, and violence. Such topics included the role of schools and social networks within the community as safe places and corner stores and abandoned houses as unsafe places. Visual Voices is a creative research method that provides a unique opportunity for youth to generate a range of ideas through access to the multiple creative methods provided. It is an innovative process that generates rich and valuable data about topics of interest and the lived experiences of young community members.