I have to share something that I'm working on as part of my day job as Director of The Crossing Arts Alliance, a non-profit in Brainerd, MN. I'm so excited by this project that this might get a little long, sorry.
For several months, some of our members have been volunteering in the local jail, teaching art and writing skills to the inmates. I know it's been incredibly rewarding for the volunteers and given the response from the inmates, I'd say it's been equally so for them.
Part of the scope of the project is to compile a book that features the work of the inmates. They're excited about this, that they'll have work in a book. That's a big deal for anybody, I think, and especially for some of those folks who haven't had much in the way of positive recognition. They'll each receive a book of their own to show off to friends and family, and then we'll be selling some in our Sales Gallery.
The other part of this project is that we are doing an exhibit using the art and writing from the inmates coupled with art from the community. How it works is this...we have asked the visual artists in our community to choose a piece of inmate writing that speaks to them and create a companion visual art piece to it. Writers are asked to choose a piece of visual art, and write. All of these pieces will be on exhibit, side by side, in the jail for the inmates to view, and then in our gallery. Talk about goosebumpy. The idea of community members reaching out and connecting with people they don't know, people from different walks of life and circumstances, is a powerful thing. If we all made a habit to try to understand or connect with others, even a little bit, imagine how our world might change. Goosebumpy, I tell ya.
I chose my piece this week, a writing about a crumpled leaf that found its way into the jail. The inmates watched for this leaf, this interloper from outside the walls, for weeks as it was kicked along the halls. It spoke to me so strongly, imagining how meaningful a crumpled brown leaf might be if I were separated from nature for too long.
We try to realistic about what our long-term impact will be on these folks, but we can't help but hope that maybe one, just one, will find something in the arts that makes them want to make a positive change in their life. I think I can honestly say this project has made a change in mine.
What kinds of rewarding projects have you been involved with? Or what are your local arts non-profits doing? I'd love to hear.
Happy Friday, everyone!