Two new exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba are giving the public a glimpse into some of the artistic minds behind bars.
The two exhibits — "Time Well Wasted" by local artist and Brandon Correctional Centre inmate Edward Southwind, and "Created with Dignity," a collection of 32 drawings submitted to this year’s annual inmate art contest sponsored by the Manitoba Multifaith Council and the John Howard Society — will be on display until Sept. 1 in the Community Gallery.
"This exhibition with art from (the inmate art contest) has been going on for seven years now," AGSM executive director John Hampton said.
"This is the only the second time it’s been exhibited, and the first time it’s been shown in an art gallery."
Ideas that dance throughout each work circle around personal growth, self-worth and moving forward, but the styles and themes change from piece to piece.
"Last year’s contest saw a lot of tattoo type imagery, but this year there’s a lot of images of family, and religious, spiritual and cultural themes … really reflects a lot of positivity and hope," Hampton said.
"Edwards also shows a lot of cultural imagery and hope between the two (exhibitions) you can see these representations of traditional Indigenous teachings, as well as Christian iconography that appears quite a bit in both of them."
There’s also a heightened awareness of the creativity behind each work.
"They have limited access to materials while incarcerated, so there’s a real rawness to some of the work and ingenuity that’s required to work with those limited supplies," Hampton said.
"Our understanding and relationship to (inmates) is usually thinking of them through the actions that resulted in them being incarcerated. This has been a really interesting way to see these humans, these other fellow community members, in a very different way."
For Southwind, this has been a special experience — after a program officer, Tanis Wilkins, noticed his penchant for drawing, artist and art educator Chris Cooper began providing lessons for him, bringing supplies to BCC and helping him create his work.
"It’s pretty inspiring to hear … how meaningful an interaction and experience this was for him … to have a positive experience in a space where there’s few opportunities for positivity and for someone to feel like they can contribute something of meaning to the world," Hampton said.
"I found that very emotional and touching."
As part of this exhibit, the AGSM, in partnership with the John Howard Society of Brandon, will be hosting a roundtable discussion, "Restorative Justice and the John Howard Society" on Aug. 25 at noon. The discussion is free and open to the public.
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