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This spring has brought exciting opportunities for the women in the painting class at VCCW! For the second year, Art for the Journey was invited to exhibit art created in their programs at a month-long exhibit presented by VA Delegate Kaye Kory, Nancy Hedeen, and the Abilities Caucus of the VA General Assembly, including works from residents at St. Mary's Woods and veterans with PTSD. We are very appreciative of the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the arts who funded this exhibit through a grant.

The women at VCCW were thrilled to have especially meaningful works of art displayed in this exhibit. After encouragement to "use the canvas to tell your story," each woman created a painting that is an artistic expression of their life experiences. In addition to these incredible paintings, the women provided short written reflections sharing the meaning of their pieces. The following are some of the sentiments included in their reflections or were shared with AFJ volunteers:

This is the best thing I’ve done in years

The women at VCCW are very excited and proud to have their paintings displayed at Kate's Day, a special event at VCCW on May 1st. Kate's Day offers a chance for the public to visit for an afternoon, with opportunities to purchase plants raised in the greenhouse, attend a dinner supporting the prison, and most importantly to us, celebrate the hard work of of the women in our painting class! In addition to sharing their lived experiences and personal growth by exhibiting the paintings and reflections, the women are currently creating small paintings that will be available for purchase. Participating in Kate's Day in this way is an honor and an opportunity for the women and they have risen to the occasion eagerly. Please consider visiting VCCW on May 1st to support Art for the Journey, VCCW, and the artists! More information about Kate's Day is available in the Goochland Gazette.

In the midst of all of these exciting opportunities, the women at VCCW have also welcomed the presence of Ingrid Derstine in the class. Ingrid is an occupational therapy doctorate student in VCU's College of Health Professions and has been collaborating with AFJ to explore the benefits of art-making and delve more deeply into the ways the painting class contributes to the lives and experiences of the women.

When asked how the painting class benefits them most, the women offered these responses:
"It brings the inside out of me" and "makes my soul feel good."
"Helps me to cope," provides "relief from stress," and teaches "that I can do anything I put my mind to."
"A calm place to come to" and "a positive atmosphere to look forward to," "where I am not a number, inmate, but a lady, painting!"

~post written by Ingrid Derstine, Doctoral Student VCU

Stay tuned as we hope to reach more potential artists and expand opportunities for engagement in the arts at VCCW and in the many other programs AFJ offers!