• Sale of inmate art benefits local community

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks houses inmates serving sentences ranging from 10 years to life. While serving their sentences, many inmates participate in recreational activities, including art.
    “Not everybody does sports,” said Barry Garner, USDB recreation services supervisor. “So, some relax and (art) is their focus. If you’ve ever played sports before, when you’re playing sports your mind is totally oblivious to where you are at the time because you’re in the moment. It is the same thing that is applied here.”
    This opportunity has led to the annual Hidden Art Locked Away art show and sale at the Riverfront Community Center, 123 Esplanade St., Leavenworth. This weekend, the art of 13 USDB inmates will join the art of U.S. Penitentiary-Leavenworth inmates. Artwork will be on display from 4-8 p.m. Feb. 1 and on sale 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 2 in the Women’s Waiting Room at the RFCC. Prices range from $10 to $300 with 80 percent of the proceeds going back to the inmate and 20 percent going to the River City Community Players, a community theater group in Leavenworth.
    “I basically put out a memo because all inmates from all custody levels can participate in this,” said Paige Rothwell, crafts shop supervisor. “So, right now, only minimum (custody level inmates) can be in the crafts shop, but this allows other custody levels to participate as well. So, they can come to recreation call (in the shop) and they can work on their stuff, but they also can work on their stuff in their cells.”
    Rothwell said the art show is beneficial for the community and the inmates.
    “(The show) is great because the community can see what (the inmates) work on inside. We see art in the community all the time, but I think it is cool and different because you get to see what they’re doing in here. They’re not just causing ruckus. They’re actually being productive and working on themselves,” she said.
    “It is exciting for (the inmates) because they don’t just get to put their artwork here. They get to take it out to the community and the public gets to see their artwork. It is really a sense of accomplishment for them to know that everybody gets to see their art.
    “It boosts morale,” she said. “It is good for the inmates to have the community support, too, because, obviously, they’re going to go back out into our community. So, it is great for them to know that they have the support while they try to achieve those goals.”
    Artwork was created using various mediums and techniques, including pencils, pens, paint-by-number and pastels. On the day of the showing, the artwork will also be judged for first, second and third place in three categories — drawing, leather and pastels. Winners will receive a ribbon.
    Page 2 of 2 - Garner said in last year’s show, a first-time participant’s artwork won first place.
    “It was an excellent piece. He did an outstanding job on it,” Garner said. “It is like bragging rights for them because we put the ribbon up.”
    Along with pieces for the art show, the craft program allows the inmates to make ceramics, candles, jewelry and other products that are then sold in the USDB Sales Store, 740 W. Warehouse Road.
    Rothwell said she hopes the program can expand with more inmates coming to the crafts shop, more inmates learning about leather artwork and expanding the program to the Joint Regional Correctional Facility.
    “I just like seeing them accomplish more,” Rothwell said. “It really does help them get out of themselves and do more than just sitting there and doing nothing.”
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