• Inmate art sale benefits community

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    While serving sentences ranging from 10 and half years to death row, inmates at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks have been able to find creative outlets through several recreational activities, including art.
    Barry Garner, USDB recreation services specialist, said it’s his job to provide these opportunities for inmates.
    “It’s our responsibility to give them outlets to find therapeutic type methods to give them opportunities to recreate,” he said. “Art is an avenue to recreate. We also have ceramics, leather (and) they also make soaps, candles and so forth. So, they get to do a variety of things.”
    This weekend, 16 submissions from USDB inmates will join artwork from the U.S. Penitentiary-Leavenworth in the 2018 Hidden Art Locked Away exhibit and sales at the Riverfront Community Center, 123 Esplanade St., Leavenworth. Artwork will be on display from 4-8 p.m. Feb. 2 and on sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 3. Prices range from $10 to $300 per piece. Eighty percent of proceeds go back to the inmate and 20 percent goes to the River City Community Players, a theater group in Leavenworth.
    USDB inmates who participated attended a three-day basic drawing course before they started their projects, no matter their prior art experience.
    “I wanted to put out, not so much a better product, but something they could be proud of and somebody else, when they buy it, can put on their wall,” said Chiquita Hudson, USDB director of the correctional program. “It worked well for them.”
    Participating in Hidden Art Locked Away gives the inmates the chance to connect with the community.
    “The reason I like it is inmates that come here are here for a long time. It gives them a chance for the community to see what they’re doing in their spare time,” Hudson said.
    Garner said it’s important to have the support of the community with the art program.
    “It’s our responsibility to get them prepared to return to the community,” he said. “In doing that, the community can help us by engaging and assisting us in that process. This is one of the ways that the community can reach out and help that process.”
    Artists used various mediums, including gel pens, chalk pastels and water colors, putting in hours to weeks to complete their works. Pieces this year include “Popeye at 90,” “Pretty Fish” and “Venice at Night.”
    “Each individual goes for themselves. They pretty much have their own thought process, their own creativity, (and) what they think within themselves they want to create,” Garner said. “If you put a theme on it, you limit their creativity.”
    Page 2 of 2 - One inmate noted his own comments to explain his thought process and inspiration behind his work.
    “I wanted to do something like M.C. Escher, and I enjoy the occasional chess game, which causes you to think and reflect,” wrote the artist who created “Reflection in the Sphere.”
    Also the artist of “Algernon’s Maze,” he said his inspiration came from his favorite book, “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes.
    “Creating the maze was difficult, but I got it done,” he wrote. “Yes, the maze is solvable.”
    The “Abstract 1” artist said he enjoyed how the colors turned out.
    “I really like the riot of color this produced,” he said. “What’s truly fun about this piece is you can hang it in any orientation and it changes the feel of it.”
    Garner said doing the art projects each year have always produced good results among the inmates.
    “They enjoy it,” he said. “They feel like they have accomplished something. When they actually create something that somebody purchased, that’s the ultimate feeling of accomplishment.”
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