Welding and masonry students paint one of the murals.

Welding and masonry students paint one of the murals.

By Lt. Robert Kelsey, A.A., Public Information Officer
Sierra Conservation Center

Former inmates and those currently serving time are crafting new lives and renewed hope through art.

Sierra Conservation Center’s Art and Healing program brought together 30 inmates to paint two canvas murals, allowing them to explore the themes of “heritage and pride.”

The murals gave inmates a chance to express themselves through art and discussion. It’s a project spearheaded by SCC Community Resource Manager Dameion Renault.

The program was designed to connect with a community non-profit, Art Miles Mural Project, to create a mural with inmates in the theme of “heritage and pride,” in the way they understand it today.

Over 12 weeks, two canvas murals were painted on the walls within the prison and every week inmates would paint their version of this theme on a 12-foot by 5-foot canvas.

Each session would start with a section doing one-hour of painting. After painting, the inmates would clean up the materials and get ready to discuss a weekly assignment researched the week prior.

The subject matter was chosen by the inmates and was related to heritage and pride. Topics included family trees, success and failure, courage and fear, family and others.

During the planning of the Art and Healing program, a partnership with Home Boy Industries (HBI) was established and a representative from their organization agreed to partner with SCC to paint half of the mural if SCC’s inmates left half of the murals in white.

Los Angeles-based HBI works with former inmates and gang members to re-develop their lives.

The theme of the program is similar to SCC’s, but in a different environment than the inmates still behind the walls of a prison.

After the inmates half-completed their murals, the Art Miles Mural Project will help SCC deliver the art to HBI to complete the painting in the same heritage and pride theme. The former inmates and gang members will paint their themes also as they currently understand them.

According to organizers, they become united through the common thread of art.

The murals once completed will be given to Art Miles Mural Project to show to groups around the world.

These two different groups communicated and expressed themselves peacefully while learning more about themselves emotionally, organizers said.

The inmates painted half of the mural, with the remainder to be painted by a partnering organization.

The inmates painted half of the mural, with the remainder to be painted by a partnering organization.