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MCC features inmate artists 

A variety of artwork by inmates in Michigan correctional facilities is included in Montcalm Community College’s “Art From the Inside Out” exhibit. Located in the Instruction North Building Art Gallery on the college’s Sidney campus, the exhibit may be viewed Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 12 through Oct. 27.

A variety of artwork by inmates in Michigan correctional facilities is included in Montcalm Community College’s “Art From the Inside Out” exhibit. Located in the Instruction North Building Art Gallery on the college’s Sidney campus, the exhibit may be viewed Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 12 through Oct. 27.

“Art From the Inside Out” exhibit Sept. 12-Oct. 27

SIDNEY—Montcalm Community College’s “Art From the Inside Out” exhibit features artwork created by inmates in Michigan correctional facilities.

Located in MCC’s Instruction North Building Art Gallery on the college’s Sidney campus, the display is open Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 12 through Oct. 27.

This is the third time MCC has held an exhibit like this. The idea originally came from the University of Michigan’s annual exhibit of prisoner art.

“It is an excellent way for the MCC community to see artwork they wouldn’t usually be able to view,” said MCC Visual Arts Coordinator Carolyn Johnson. “At MCC, part of our mission is to allow our students to experience different ideas and expressions. Our art students critique and analyze the artworks and expand their perspective by observing work from people who have very different life experiences from the average college student.

“We have received responses from community members, as well as from our students, expressing how enlightening it is to see artwork created by a marginalized population,” she added. “Art is very personal. How we engage with art is very personal. It helps us to see through the eyes of people who live differently from us, as well as people throughout history and across cultures. Art helps us expand our ideas. The more we know about others, the more empathetic and understanding we are toward others.”

MCC expects more than 100 artworks in 2D and 3D from approximately 75 artists from four area institutions.

“It amazes me to see how strong the creative impulse is in humans,” Johnson said. “From picking up charcoal to adorn prehistoric cave walls, to kids building sand castles, there is an innate urge to make things of beauty.

“Many of the people taking part in this exhibit have never had any art education and only started to express themselves visually since being incarcerated,” she added. “Many of the artworks express ideas of remorse and sadness. Art is a safe way to explore the entire range of human emotions.”

MCC Art Instructor Debbie Bell said this art show is meant to educate and challenge students.

“This art is very psychological and has intense emotion within it, so most pieces hold a lot of meaning and pent up emotions,” Bell said. “This art show gives viewers a connection with people who they are unable to have contact with as they would with others in society.”

Johnson said it is important to realize that most of the people in prison will one day be released.

“When someone has paid their debt to society, we need to find ways for them to fit back into the outside world. Art can help them do just that. If these artists don’t have a creative outlet or positive way to interact with the outside world, they may revert to the behavior that got them incarcerated.”

Bell said all MCC art instructors have their students observe the art, write reflection papers on the artwork and discuss what materials were used.

“Some of the participating prison artists have family members in our community,” Johnson said. “Many people in our area are employed at area prisons. How much safer might their jobs be when prisoners have a safe outlet to express their emotions?”

Most of the artwork is available for sale. The prices range from $5 to $500, based on the piece’s size and the artist’s experience. Once a piece is taken out of the prison, it cannot be returned to the artist.

Visit MCC’s Instruction North Art Gallery on the college’s Sidney campus to view and/or purchase pieces. A ballot box in the Art Gallery allows visitors to vote for their favorite artwork and People’s Choice Awards will be given to the artists receiving the most votes at the end of the show.

Contact MCC Visual Arts Coordinator Carolyn Johnson at cjohnson@montcalm.edu or 989-328-1248 for more information.

 

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