Work from the Community Partners in Action (CPA) Prison Arts Program will be displayed Russell Library beginning September 18. This exhibition features the paintings and drawings of five artists who were all formerly incarcerated in Connecticut’s prisons. Community Partners in Action is proud to continue to work with inmates upon their release and equally proud to note the continued artistic endeavors and accomplishments of inmates no longer working directly with the Prison Arts Program.
Earning a living, supporting one’s self, supporting a family and leading a satisfying and productive life can be difficult for the most prepared of us. Imagine having a prison record. It is often seemingly impossible. Yet here are five individuals living, working, doing their best and making art at the same time.
More recent “alumni” include Gerald Filyaw, whose more light-hearted paintings focus on his various inventions and their practical/impractical application in the world around him. In addition, his paintings often acknowledge the importance of his faith in God in his life. Jon Jay Arnold continues to pursue his experiments in watercolor painting; some are quick and technical and others are time consuming explorations of his past. Pete Delgado still labors lovingly over beautifully detailed ballpoint pen drawings and Nina Robinson (née Massa to all those who have followed her work throughout past year’s CPA Prison Arts Program Annual Shows) continues to patiently work as her “doodles” evolve and grow into beautiful and complex abstractions.
A small sculpture display created in Connecticut prisons during the past year will be installed in the display case on the first floor. It will feature the meticulous “models” of artist Christopher Blanks, including a Boeing (Huey)Bell UH-1B Helicopter, a “paper Panzer” and a 4-6-6-4 Challenger Steam Engine all made out of card stock.
This exhibition is a collaboration between the Community Partners in Action Prison Arts Program and Middletown, CT’s Russell Library that has included past solo exhibitions of “released” artists Lester Allen and Lynda Gardner.
Community Partners in Action is a nonprofit agency created in 1875, first called the Friends of Prisoners Society and later, the Connecticut Prison Association. The Prison Arts Program was initiated in 1978 as collaboration between the Connecticut Department of Correction and Community Partners in Action. The program operates under the belief that the arts are an integral tool in aiding inmates to develop their self-discipline, self-esteem, work ethic, interpersonal and communication skills and their ability to think critically while they examine their lives and the actions that led to their incarceration. Exhibitions and publications are the culmination of each year’s work organizing and providing arts workshops and projects within the State’s prison system. They also provide the general public with a unique window into an important, but often unseen, part of our community.
"Award-winning artist, art teacher and interior designer, Armida Espaillat, works with a variety of media, including charcoal, pastel, watercolor, oil and more. Her art primarily centers in realism: still life, landscapes, faces, and nature. She includes a variety of elements for texture that consist of sand, plaster, sea sand and rice paper, among others. Born in the Dominican Republic and currently residing in Middletown, CT, Armida will be exhibiting her works throughout the library in November. She has expanded her traditional setting to the direction of the art in her community and worldwide."
In preparation for their annual Exhibit and Sale, which begins every year on Thanksgiving weekend, the Guild will show some of their selected works in the first floor glass display case in the main lobby on the first floor of the library. Featured in this exhibit will be pottery, weaving, jewelry and baskets made by members of the co-op. The pieces will be on display throughout November. Wesleyan Potters, Inc. is a non-profit cooperative guild located in Middletown and founded in 1948 to promote the learning and development of skills in crafts.