Art created by offenders from sixteen prisons across England from Full Sutton in the North to the Isle of Wight in the South is going on show at Worcester Cathedral this week (25 October – 7 November 2019). The work has been produced by students in prisons taking courses provided by Milton Keynes College, one of the country’s leading and most experienced prison education providers.
The exhibition is entitled, “Hearten” which means to “inspire with confidence.” Milton Keynes College provides a range of educational courses across the country for Her Majesty’s prisons. This year the Long Term High Security Estate (LTHSE) and prisons in the South Central area are working together to showcase and exhibit the talent and creative artwork being developed in custodial settings.
Our main scope is to inform the audience, and local communities, about some of the more positive aspects of educating serving offenders in Art and Design and to demonstrate the benefits and huge impact Art has on supporting a wide range of mental health issues. The fascinating ideas, designs and work being produced with a variety of traditional and innovative materials demonstrates the positive impact these kinds of workshops and qualifications, are having on individuals. It is also an opportunity for our learners to express themselves in a healthy way, build confidence and develop better communication skills.
The exhibition catalogue includes comments from the artists about the importance of the work to their lives and the impact is has on them:
An Art Student from HMP Full Sutton says, “Art has turned my world around. Drawing and painting has given me a great confidence boost and a feeling of real self-esteem. It has given me a great sense of worth.”
Clive from Albany writes of his work, Fields of Joy, “I dream of the day I can take my palette to a beautiful English countryside and try to paint how the land makes my heart feel.”
Grant, also currently in Albany produced Winter’s Day in Finland and wrote about it, “No matter how dark my days are my heart remains light as I await the freedom of a long Summers evening.”
Phillip from Erlestoke contemplates the profound effect art has had on his general attitude to life and prison saying, “Learning to paint has really impacted my thinking skills and has made me relax a lot in my mind.”
Karen Simmonds, Director LTHSE South, Milton Keynes College says, “Many of the College’s art teachers are professional artists themselves and say they are passionate about supporting and encouraging the use of creative skills within these environments as it allows learners to find purpose, coping strategies and a healthy way of expressing themselves.
It will be good for local communities and those further afield to see how art is being used to help rehabilitate prisoners and how it provides them with a variety of important life skills needed upon release. With that in mind, by hosting an exhibition of this scale, it will give our learners a platform to achieve something that can be appreciated by all who visit.”
Canon Georgina Byrne from the Cathedral says: “The creative spirit touches all of us, whatever our circumstances, and art has the power to transform lives. Most of us rarely have opportunity to consider the lives of people in our country’s prisons. This exhibition allows the artists to speak to us and engage with us, and to share something of who they are at a deeper level.”
Contributions have been received from the following prisons:
HMP Full Sutton
HMP Isle of Wight – Parkhurst and Albany
HMP Long Lartin