Willie Nelson Art: Prison Art

Willie Nelson, by Robert Hatfield
created with graphite pencils
on 8 x 10 inches on illustration board
$30.00

The Prison Art Story

I am a nearly 70 year-old former political prisoner, having served 18 years for “crimes” committed while a part of Seattle’s George Jackson Brigade (see http://www.gjbip.org). When I was released from prison and working full-time I would send money in to some of the political prisoners I had left behind (there are over a hundred POWs in the U.S. today, mostly former Black Panthers), but that soon became financially burdensome.

Then I came up with the idea of creating a website where these progressive prisoners could sell their arts and crafts, which would most likely be consciousness raising items, and thus earn themselves some money and educate the public at the same time. While I was inside I made ceramics, and if no talent me could do that so could others find artistic outlets, or so I thought. As it turned out, most political prisoners did not have much interest in doing arts and crafts.

But much to my surprise there was a great demand for such an outlet by social prisoners (those not confined for political offenses). Since I had the site up anyway I started posting their art. Back then I was working and had some money to spare, so I charged the prisoners nothing to sell their art and even paid for all of their shipping.

Ed Mead
www.PrisonArt.org
P.O. Box 69586
Seattle, WA 98168-9586
E-Mail: mead [at] prisonart [dot] org
Phone: 206-271-5003

I started the site in 1999, and offered the service to prisoners for free for five years, but now I charge them ten percent of their asking price. The site nearly closed for a few days in early 2008, not because of the money being so bad (which it is), but because of the huge amount of work in doing all of the correspondence, scanning, posting, shipping, and all the work related to running a secure web server. The site was a victim of its own success. I was overwhelmed. I’ve pretty much stopped doing scanning and instead rely on family memembers and loved ones of prisonsers to e-mail me copies of the art. With that change I am now able to keep up with the demands of the site.

The website runs on a server located in my home. It’s a hobby. I’m a state-raised ex-con who until recently worked a full-time job to make a living; the website costs me money to run and maintain. Scanning and posting artwork takes a lot of time, as does correspondence, shipping, etc., so I am often slow at getting things done. The only thing I do fast is pay you when an item sells.

I am the organizer of Men Against Sexism at Walla Walla, the co-founder of Prison Legal News, the past president of California Prison Focus, and the current editor of Prison Focus Magazine (see: http/www.prisons.org/publications).

Contact Prison Art through any of the mechanisms below:

Prison Art
P.O. Box 69586
Seattle, WA 98168-9586
E-Mail: mead [at] prisonart [dot] org
Phone: 206-271-5003

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