Last night we had the opening reception for the Beyond the Bricks exhibit at the non-profit for which I work. You may remember me sharing a little bit about the Behind the Bricks project, where volunteers went into the Crow Wing County jail and taught art and writing to the inmates. We asked community members to create companion pieces in response to those pieces, the result of which was the Beyond the Bricks exhibit.
I created this boxed landscape in response to my companion artist's writing about a small brown leaf he had found in the jail. At the reception last night I had an opportunity to meet my companion artist in person. He told me the whole story about that leaf, and he explained to me how difficult it was in jail to be utterly separated from the outside world. We talked about my piece and what it meant to me and how I tried to imagine how I might feel in his situation, both of us knowing that I couldn't fully appreciate that kind of pain without having lived it. As he read his own words aloud, he was visibly moved, I think by the memories his words brought back, by this event celebrating him not as an inmate but as an artist.... as a human being, and by this community reaching out and embracing him. We're all deeply flawed, and last night was not about passing judgement, but about acceptance.
My words can't convey how moving this was for me. I walked away with tears in my eyes, but not before thanking him for being open to this project, shaking his hand, and giving him a hug. Later in the evening he came up to me and told me that he planned to keep on with his art, and that this project had changed him.
The arts matter, people. The arts matter.
Below are images of companion works from the exhibit. Several of you had asked if I would share images so here are a few. The visual art in each of these was created by a community member and the writing by an inmate artist. Next week I'll share some of the visual art created by inmates with companion writings by community artists. If you're a softy like me you might want to grab the tissues.
You Could Be Anywhere
A glimpse at the exhibit as a whole. If you are in the area, please stop by and see it. The show is here until October 11th and then will travel to a few local churches. It's extraordinary, you won't want to miss it.
Beyond the Bricks
at The Crossing Arts Alliance's Q Gallery
2nd floor, the Franklin Arts Center
Brainerd, MN 56401
Tues - Fri 10-4
thru Oct 11
As part of this project a book was published featuring the art and writing of the inmates. The companion pieces are not included in the book but believe me, the book is incredible in its own right. It is available in the Crossing's Sales and Gift Gallery or on Amazon. I hope you'll give it a look, and if you would consider spreading the word, I'd be so grateful. I'm so proud to be a part of this important work and would encourage other communities to consider a similar program as well.