Art created by detainees returns

Published 9:00 am Saturday, May 11, 2019

On Both Sides of the Bars art exhibit will showcase artwork made by local inmates and ICE detainees. Provided

Every Wednesday morning since September 2017, the Freeborn County Adult Detention Center’s program room turns into a painting studio for approximately six to 10 inmates and/or ICE detainees. For the past two years this class has been taught by volunteer Jim Dalton, and the class has become a favorite among the inmate population. Sometimes there is a waiting list to attend.

“One of the reasons I wanted an art program was because it does not matter what country you are from or what language you speak, you can create art,” said Heather Coombs, program coordinator at the Detention Center. “Another reason I wanted this program is art is a wonderful stress reliever, it promotes nonviolent communication, provides the satisfaction of creation versus destruction, and therefore makes our facility safer.”

In March 2018, the first “On Both Sides of the Bars” exhibit of inmate and detainee art was displayed at The Albert Lea Art Center. The purpose of the art show was to share with the community some of the good things that come out of the jail. Another reason was to connect inmates and detainees with positive, local people to help them build their self-esteem and be a part of something good, according to a press release.

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As a result of this partnership and the exhibit, at the 2018 Minnesota Jail Programs & Services statewide conference, the Detention Center was awarded the Dave Grant Program of the Year Award. The criteria used for this award is for cost effectiveness, innovations, utilization and/or integration of community resources or provides new skills.

“This is my second year and each Wednesday is exciting because I have the opportunity to work with such a diverse population of individuals,” Dalton said. “I have had unique geography lessons from people around the world and art has brought us together; and we are finding out we are not so different after all.”

The Albert Lea Art Center will partner again with the Freeborn County Adult Detention Center to bring to the community the 2019 On Both Sides of the Bars art exhibit. There will be approximately 50 pieces of artwork consisting of pencil drawings and acrylic paintings from Dalton’s painting class.

Also featured in the exhibit will be essays and stories that the inmates and detainees wrote in the creative writing workshop headed by volunteer Carolyn Smith. The writers come from all over the world and have a variety of skills and experience. There will be five notebooks containing the essays and stories.

“We’ve done our best to capture the writer’s intent and I think you’ll be surprised at the insight you gain while reading the stories and learn about their lives and cultures,” Smith said.

Carolina Pena translates Spanish to English and vice versa, according to Smith.

“There is a lot of healing, expression and peace that comes with writing,” Coombs said.

This art show will be a fundraiser for the Detention Center’s art program and pieces of art will be for sale and the proceeds will come back to the program.

The exhibit runs through June 8 and is free and open to the public at The Albert Lea Art Center, 101 S. Broadway Ave.