The Native American Prison Art Project was founded in June 2007 as a unique opportunity for bridging prison with community. We primarily work with Native American women returning to their communities from prison in Oregon. Over 70% of these women were homeless before going to prison. Many have children that will be over-crowded temporary emergency shelters directly from prison.
We asked Native men and women incarcerated in several Oregon prisons to donate a piece of art work for public display. The primary purpose of holding the art show was to provide public education on incarceration and the barriers to re-entry. The donated art work would be sold during the show, with all proceeds going toward the Women’s Transition House Fund. The Native American Prison Art Project was born….
Red Lodge wrote four grants and publicly displayed all the art work donated to us. To date, ten out of fourteen prisons in Oregon have donated over 200 pieces of art work to R.L.T.S. in the last three years. The Native American Prison Art shows have been very successful in helping us promote public awareness and education. We are very excited about reproducing fine Native American art work, known as Friends of Red Lodge, which allows us to reach a broader audience. Friends of Red Lodge combines the very best art from Oregon inmates participating in the Native American Prison Art Project, and professional artists within our Native American communities.
All artists are sincere in wanting to support the Women’s Transition House Program. No artist has received any financial or other, compensation. An all volunteer staff is used to promote, transport, set up, take down, and educate the public during the Native American Prison Art shows. All community artists participating in Friends of Red Lodge, have either been previously incarcerated, or have family who has been incarcerated. Joining these two groups of artists, helps to strengthen our communities, encourages community involvement and promotes healing across a continuum.
Friends of Red Lodge promotes art as therapy. Myrna stated “if I didn’t have my beads to work with in there, I would have gone crazy”. Art promotes critical thinking and fine motor skills. Art relaxes people in institutional settings, and allows them to focus on creating beauty and color within the confines of their personal space. Art is very important to Native people. Common objects were created not only to be functional, but beautiful as well.
Art allows people who are otherwise invisible to be seen and heard. Art is a universal language capable of reaching past socio-economic barriers, cultural differences, and geographical restrictions. Art provides Red Lodge a non threatening venue of which to work from, in regard to providing public education and promoting culturally appropriate programming in and out of Oregon prisons.
Friends of Red Lodge’s vision is to reduce recidivism (re-incarceration) among Native Americans, and to prevent incarceration of future generations. We wish to celebrate the beauty of Native American art, in addition to providing cultural education and statistical information on incarceration. Thank you again for your support!
Trish Jordan, Executive Director
#252 Visions of Red Lodge
The two images shown above and below are examples of the art being done by Native American men and women incarcerated in Oregon jails and prisons.
#298 Looks Within