One of my Paintings Goes to Prison 3I started painting as a way to re-connect with people, and of course to keep the craziness in my head under wraps - it's debatable if the latter worked, lol, but when it comes to connecting with people it has gone so far beyond my expectations as to be unbelievable to me. I wanted to share something that was just sent to me - my paintings have gone places I have never been or dreamed of going, but a friend of mine, Brook Nolin, who does an incredible amount of work spreading disability awareness and education recently took my painting "The Part You Throw Away" to prison; here is what he told me:
John - I posted this to my Iowa parents support group. I thought you might like to read it. You and one of your paintings were one part of my speech I made yesterday. This is what I posted.
Today is one of those days that is hard to put into words. I went to Anamosa prison today. I went to this maximum security prison with an open mind. There are 1000 inmates at this prison. I met with the people at Iowa Prison Industries that produce most of the braille our kids read at school. To be honest I didn't know what to expect. The prison is over 100 years old. This is a tough place to be. I observed the 25 or so inmates that produce braille. To my surprise it was a very business like atmosphere. Each inmate works 8 hours a day 5 days a week. They were very dedicated to the work they do. They each had up to date computers and a state of the art embosser. They are a select group, only the best behaved inmates get the opportunity to be in braille production. There is a waiting list for the jobs. Each inmate has to be serving a minimum of 7 years have a high school education. There are 10 of them that are lifers. They have to progress in their Brailling or they are out - mis behave then you are out. Towards the end I was my time to speak. I shared my stories that some of you have heard before. Twenty five grown men who somehow ended up where they were at wanted to know that they are making a difference. We laughed, we had serious discussions about braille, I told stories of raising a blind child, it was important to them . I brought in one of John Bramblitt's paintings. They all had to touch it. I left them copies for the prison library of Bramblitt's book Shouting in the Dark. I also left them copies of Mike Mays' book crashing through. In the end I was surrounded by men who had done things that I couldn't imagine. They wanted to shake my hand and I shook their hands one by one and let them know that they were making a difference. Today is a day I won't forget. It was only three hours - I could not imagine a day, a week, a month, a year or a lifetime.
In a leter message Brook said of the men touching the painting...
You should have seen the faces of these guys when I told them a brief story about you. They were hesitant at first, I told them that your paintings needed to be touched. They all had to touch your painting and touch at the Braille on it. They couldn't wait to read your book. Take care - Brook
I am contunually reminded how despair, loss, and pain link all of us together no matter our circumstance or where we find ourselves, but if these attributes connect us together then so must hope, beauty, and encouragement - we should never forget that it is a matter of choice what we focus our lives upon. My eternal thanks to Brook and people like him who choose to focus on what makes humanity great instead of what drags us down.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post.