Painting for positivity
Anyone who is serving time in prison is likely struggling to find meaning in life. Although they may absolutely deserve to be there for committing a heinous crime, most of those locked down will eventually return to freedom, rather than live out their days behind bars.
Although we certainly do not excuse anyone’s crime, we also believe in reform and rehabilitation. Therefore, we strongly support the action of Positive Street Art to help inmates at the New Hampshire Correctional Facility for Women in Concord learn how to express themselves through painting.
During a Thursday tour of the facility, our reporter took photos of the inmates while they were painting and got to chat with a few of them. Each prisoner we interviewed spoke highly of Positive Street Art’s Manny Ramirez, who serves as the artist in residence for the Nashua-based nonprofit.
“We always wanted to help people who have been through it, and could use a little bit of inspiration and a change of pace,” Ramirez told our reporter. “I’m just super humble and excited to be here to be able to help.”
One inmate, going by the name of Katie, told our reporter Ramirez helped the incarcerated artists express themselves in a way normally forbidden, all while treating them as actual people with whom he could share work.
“He helped us express ourselves in ways that sometimes, we’re not allowed to. We only have certain circumstances where we’re able to do what we want,” Katie said. “What I liked about him is, he didn’t see us as just another inmate with a number. He treated us like regular people, like just another great opportunity to work with fellow artists.”
With the completion of the new women’s prison last year, $75,000 was allotted for art. Some of this was used to retain Ramirez. With prisoners learning from Ramirez, who has more than 10 years of experience professionally painting murals, those who participated appreciated an experience beyond their normal routines.
“When I first came here, I thought I was going to fall apart. And working with the girls I worked with, and working with Manny, and working with the art, it actually gave me the belief system that it is actually going to be OK because we know that there are dark days and there are bright days,” inmate Holly Wilson added of the experience.
We salute Ramirez and the prisoners for completing this work. We hope some of the inmates can both find peace with their murals, while also perhaps applying their painting skills to a career once they are released.