For women who are incarcerated, a weekly art class is a time of retreat, reflection and healing. One participant, Vivian, said, “Art class takes me out of these walls and into a peaceful place.”
Prison staff selects participants from a waiting list to learn oil painting techniques. They use high quality supplies with instruction from professional artists with Art for the Journey.
Warden Wilmouth of the Virginia Correctional Center for Women finds great value in the class, feeling it helps the women with self-worth and confidence. As a strong proponent of the program, he expedited renovation of an art classroom, approved expansion of the class size so more women could participate, and allowed the class to go from meeting bi-weekly to weekly. “Through their art they speak about their life and express it through the canvas,” Mr. Wilmouth said. “They paint what they feel. They express their journey and it gives them a relief too.”
The art program has been so well-received amongst prison staff and students that Mr. Wilmouth and AFJ are working closely to create a new program at a second site a few miles away starting later this spring.
None of this would be possible without the tenacity and flexibility exhibited by devoted Art for the Journey volunteers who serve in this unique environment!
See a glimpse of the program on PBS:
“Art for the Journey helps us in so many areas,” says Vivian, “They don’t even know they are enriching our spirits. They are giving us things we can actually use besides paint, just by being here and caring about us as people and not inmates.”