By Ashley Caldwell, Student Assistant in the Office of Public and Employee Communications

The project to beautify the visiting room at the California Medical Facility (CMF) transformed not only the look of the facility’s visiting area, but the entire atmosphere for visitors, inmates, and staff.
Five inmate artists worked together to revamp the once plain white walls of CMF’s visiting room to resemble alluring scenery of California landmarks.

The Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) initiated the idea for the project about a year ago, in the wake of a similar project at California State Prison, Solano. The council donated funds for paint and other supplies.
Community Resource Manager Landon Bravo collaborated with the CAC, the Inmate Family Council (IFC), the Men’s Advisory Council (MAC), and CMF management to develop the idea and concepts for the project.

After much thought and consideration, the “California Seasons” theme, focusing on popular landmarks, was developed.

The project was intended to create an atmosphere for inmates and visitors to engage in positive communication and reminisce about times when they were with their loved ones visited a California landmark.  The landmarks highlighted in the murals include Yosemite, Napa, Monterey Bay and Big Sur, Mount Shasta and the Mojave Desert.

The inmate artists drew up on their experiences living near or visiting the landmarks.

“The project has created a positive and welcoming environment for inmates and families to visit,” said Bravo. “The beautification project has allowed a constructive environment for inmate artists to work together to create art, which has resulted in a beautiful area for family reunification.”

Bravo and the MAC solicited inmates who had skill in art and were willing to participate in the project.  Inmate Marion Meux, a well-known artist who has been at CMF for several years, was the first chosen to help with the project. He helped recruit the other artists involved.  To ensure smooth operation, Bravo said, participating inmates could not be under adverse or disciplinary action or have had recent rules of violation reports.  None of the inmates involved in the beautification project have had formal art training.  Each artist discovered his passion for art while incarcerated.

The inmate artists began working on the project at the end of November and hope to finish the visiting area by the time the weather warms up, when they will begin work on a zoo theme for the children’s area outside.
With the dedication of Bravo, participating artists and support from various groups and councils, the beautification project has succeeded in creating a positive and welcoming environment for inmate families to visit and reconnect with their loved ones.  Both children and adults enjoy looking for additions week to week.  There is a clear appreciation of the work, and visitors look forward to seeing the project completed.