November 11, 2011

Art and Inmates. An Intersection

Do you ever wonder how you ended up somewhere? Just the other day I drove across town and realized I had no recollection of how I had arrived at my destination. It happened again while on the phone. It was one of those first time phone conversations. It was an amazing conversation, but when I got off the phone I questioned how I had gotten there. How had I gotten to the place in dialogue where the person on the other end describes 13-17 year old-convicted as adult-lifers, and by the way will you please come to Florida and do art with them? How does that happen?

I never signed up for this. There was no GPS directing me. Yet, here I am. Part of me wants to turn around and run away. Part of me looks to the left and the right straining for a different view.

I wanted to run away when my son was diagnosed with cancer. I longed for a way out. Instead God provided a way through.

When I had four children all under the age of 8 there were days I begged for a different view. Within 24 hours the view would always change.

My baby who was diagnosed with cancer is now an amazing 13 year old.

Which brings me back to the intersection. 13-17 year olds. Convicted as adults. In for life! They’re called “Youthful Offenders.” 484 of them. In one facility. In Florida. Prison Fellowship wants me to come do an art camp. Or train the people there to do art camps. There’s an elderly population in some of the prisons too. Think geriatrics. My brain is having to create files that never existed in my thoughts.

How did I get here? I wasn’t even an artist until 7 years ago. Seriously.

I don’t teach technique to the inmates. I bring freedom in the form of a brush. I’ve apologized to a boy who grew up in the midst of watching others shoot up heroin all because he drew hands with huge veins. I walked another through a funeral of sorts. He lost his grandpa when he was 10. His grandpa died of starvation crossing the border. He never got to say goodbye. His life of crime started soon after. He painted a picture of him fishing with his grandpa as a way to let go. He has 2 children. At 17 he is a child. Thankfully he’s not in for life.

Art and inmates. An intersection. A journey. I didn’t ask for it but I know I’ve been called to it. Now begins the process of gathering others who have been called to this road. I’m sounding the horn.

You don’t have to be an artist.

You don’t have to go to prisons.

If you have an ear to hear the Lord and if you believe God can speak through pictures you have all you need. Let me know if you want to enter the highway.