FROM THE 'HEART' ; Inmates in West Virginia Prisons Contribute to Society with Artwork That Helps Children in Foster Care

By White, Kate | Charleston Gazette Mail, October 13, 2016 | Go to article overview

FROM THE 'HEART' ; Inmates in West Virginia Prisons Contribute to Society with Artwork That Helps Children in Foster Care


White, Kate, Charleston Gazette Mail


The artwork at an auction next week might not include the name of the artist, but Carrie Dawson said that's not what's important. Inmates incarcerated in West Virginia didn't create the pieces to get recognition, said Dawson, a spokeswoman for Mission West Virginia. They created the artwork to contribute something to society.

Pieces made by inmates in the Mountain State will be featured at "Giving Back With HeART, a program created by Mission West Virginia, a nonprofit that helps find homes and assistance for children in foster care.

The artwork sold at the event and all donations go toward college scholarships for young West Virginians who have been in foster care or had a parent incarcerated.

"Many [of the inmates] are a product of the same situation, Dawson said, "and they find that this is a way for them [to help].

Giving Back With HeART will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Culture Center, in Charleston. This year marks the third time the event has been held.

The program has expanded over the past year and no longer features only artwork from inmates inside the state's prisons. It also includes federal prisoners incarcerated in West Virginia, as well as juveniles in the care of the state Division of Juvenile Services.

U.S. Attorney Carol Casto, of West Virginia's Southern District, recently spent time learning more about the program. She said she believes it's something that could be implemented nationwide.

"Water colors, oils, pastels, charcoal, pencil, crocheting, musical instruments, Casto said, listing some of the pieces of artwork she saw inmates create. "The amount of talent is incredible - especially with what they have to work with. Sometimes all there is is a cardboard box.

A description of the materials an inmate used to create a piece will be available at the auction. Officials with the program usually ask inmates to use initials or a made up name or, as Dawson called it, "their artist's name, if they sign their work.

"They understand there are victims out there, she said, noting that artwork is submitted by inmates serving time for all kinds of offenses, including violent crimes.

Also up for auction this year is music recorded by inmates. …

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