Beyond teaching art techniques and supplying craft materials, we offer safe creative space for individuals to learn and express themselves.

At Virginia Correctional Center for Women, art classes have restored a sense of humanity and hope. In an otherwise harsh environment, the atmosphere of the art studio is characterized by person-centered engagement, positive support and awareness of the deeper emotional and psychological benefits of creativity. Through professional art instruction, our hope is to give these women a way to experience well-being through creative expression and to better prepare them for life beyond incarceration.

Incarceration can be an especially difficult experience for women. Studies have shown that almost 80% of women in prison have histories of physical, psychological or sexual abuse and most of these arrive in need of mental health and/or substance abuse treatment. Many are wives, mothers and grandmothers, carrying a deep sense of family loss. The experience of making art affirms their humanity and provides a space where they can safely express themselves and even find healing. They paint for their daughters, sons and mothers, usually with a memory or gesture of love.

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“In class, we started by drawing a square, and from that square, my talent unraveled," shared dedicated student, Debra, "I learned how to paint lighthouses and landscape scenes, each representing peace and zen. During (this time), my son was in a horrific accident that led him to being paralyzed from the neck down. Once he passed, I felt pain I'd never felt in my life and I pushed through that pain by reverting back to what makes me feel at peace. There (with Art for the Journey), I found I could paint beautiful beach scenes, where I discovered that in my darkest days, art brings color to my life.”

Individual and group artwork from the class is exhibited through community partners during the year to celebrate the artists' creativity, give voice to their life experience and invite understanding and compassion for incarcerated women. Participants experience a sense of solace, peace and perspective, and learn a skill they can take with them when they return to society.

This program is funded by individual gifts, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Saint Matthias Episcopal Church, Saint Edwards Catholic Church, the Perdue Foundation, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

COVID RESPONSE: Volunteers have not been able to access the in-person work we do since March of 2020. This population has been isolated, and at risk and suffered loss during the pandemic. Art for the Journey has acquired funds to provide art kits during the continued isolation for every woman in the VCCW facility, and are in process of providing these kits as a means to promote well-being for this oftentimes forgotten members of society.