To get men to produce art in prison can be challenging. Since June this year I have been teaching art in one of the regions prisons for the charity Junction 42. The Head of Education asked if I would run a project on one of the House Blocks. She wanted the prisoners to produce art that would actually go on the walls. The theme was to be “Community”.
I began by recruiting 6 men, most of whom I’d worked with before on a previous project. A creative writing exercise was the starting pointer the visual ideas. We spent most of the first morning session discussing what community meant for them. By the time we had finished we had a list of “Community is…..” statements.
The men talked about ways they could visually describe each statement. In the afternoon they began to draw out their ideas with images and rough compositions. I then went online to source images from which they could work from. We decided that it would be helpful to include some of the words relating to community to help describe the images.
The lads traced the black and white images onto A3 watercolour paper and began to paint their ideas in watercolour. We then took the designs and enlarged them onto plywood panels around 110 x 80 cm. They then painted their designs onto the plywood using acrylic paint over the next 3 weeks.
The artwork was hung in the reception area of the House Block. The project was unveiled in August in-front of the Deputy Director of the prison and the Head of Education. One of the men involved presented the theme of community by reading out loud what the initial group had written in the first session. He spoke about how working on the project had helped him with his ADHD and how much calmer he felt. Two of the men involved have also started to attend one of the Alpha courses we have been running to find out more about Christianity.
The Deputy Director and the Head of Education were delighted with the outcome. They’ve asked me to run a similar project to get the prisoners to produce artwork for the walls of other house blocks too.