Willie Nelson Prison Art: First Place


photo:  Prudence Siebert, Fort Leavenworth Lamp

“Willie,” a pencil drawing by a U.S. Penitentiary inmate, took first place the Hidden Art Locked Away art show and sale Feb. 6 at the Riverfront Community Center. The art show and sale features artwork by USP and U.S. Disciplinary Barracks inmates and benefits the River City Community Players theater group.


In a pencil sketch, an artist paid tribute to the late actor and comedian Robin Williams who was perhaps his childhood icon. The sketch at the Hidden Art Locked Away show featured the face of Williams and the character Genie he voiced from the Disney movie “Aladdin.” For $150, someone could purchase this detailed sketch drawn by an inmate in the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks

Sketches, paintings and a variety of leatherwork were on display at the Hidden Art Locked Away show and sale at the Riverfront Community Center in Leavenworth Feb. 7. These works of art were submitted by inmates from the USDB and U.S. Penitentiary-Leavenworth as part of an annual fund-raiser for the Leavenworth performing arts group, the River City Community Players.

On its 35th year, the show gives a creative outlet to inmates within their respective prison art programs to develop pieces using primarily paint, pencils, pens and graphite. Eighty percent of the proceeds from the show go back to the inmate and can be used to purchase art supplies. The other 20 percent goes into a city coffer used primarily to pay for royalties, props, sets and costumes for the RCCP. Last year, the show made $2,200.

There were 160 items submitted this year and 44 of those were from inmates at the USDB. Three pieces were awarded ribbons for first, second and third place judged by members of the Leavenworth County Artists’ Association before a public viewing Feb. 6.

First- and second-place winners were sketched by the same artist from the USP. First place was a pencil sketch of Willie Nelson and second place was a colored pencil sketch titled “Indian Corn.” The third place winner was a leather wallet titled “Lady Butterfly.”

Linda Finch, one of the art show coordinators, has purchased more than two dozen pieces, many of which feature women, from the art shows throughout the years.

Finch said that what sells well changes from year to year and depends on the client.

“You can’t ever know,” Finch said. “That’s really well done, but unless someone wants a picture of Willie Nelson in their house, it might not get sold.”

Finch said that the art show is a way for inmates to release their inner frustrations in a safe and constructive way.

“We have always called this ‘arts for the arts’ since we are community theater people, and we consider what we do as an art,” Finch said. “We like doing this because it encourages what we think is a very positive outlet. They could be spending their time doing things a lot more destructive and this is constructive. We occasionally will have what we like to refer to as dark art, but we think that is a much more productive way to get rid of dark feelings (that) is to put it out there on paper. Maybe the people who come in don’t appreciate that art, but we like to think maybe that gets rid of some negativity that needs an outlet.”

– See more at: http://www.ftleavenworthlamp.com/article/20150212/NEWS/150219693/1349/fort%20community#sthash.1thbVjuI.dpuf

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