The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) announces the opening of its art exhibition titled “Surrender: Letting Go To Gain Perspective,” the first outcome of its Prison Art Program expansion. The show will feature more than 30 original paintings and works on paper created by residents of the Walton Correctional Institution (WCI) who took part in the CAA’s first Prison Art Education program. “Surrender” will run July 11 through August 20 at The Foster Gallery in Grand Boulevard, and a special opening event will take place Wednesday, July 13, from 5-7 p.m., celebrating the program and the students/artists.
The CAA’s Prison Art Program began in 2020 through a collaboration with Restorative Justice volunteers Libby Fisher and Erica Averion who were actively and regularly volunteering with the residents of WCI and were aware of the need for arts engagement and resources within the prison system. The CAA funded the first phase of the program, which included participation by men in three WCI dorms who created original work for an online exhibit called “Con-scious Expressions: An Insider’s Perspective,” which was then shown in public at Emerald Coast Theatre Company and Perla Bakery through Summer 2021.
In February 2022, the CAA expanded the program to include weekly onsite art instruction, materials, and a venue for public exhibition of the students’ work with a plan to continue to fund the program indefinitely. From April through June, the residents participated in a weekly class led by artist and instructor Bradley Copeland who challenged them to let go of any predetermined plan and allow the enjoyment and exploration of the process to guide them.
Throughout the three-month program, the class experimented with a number of activities focused on surrendering control, abandoning preconceived notions of art, and creating without any direction or intention; then they were instructed to find shapes and images within and make something from the nonsensical scribbles, splashes and smears.
“Painting with this method (or lack thereof) shows us the beauty in mistakes and helps us make sense of the mess in front of us,” said Copeland. “Instead of learning how to paint inside the lines, these men have been learning how to see differently. The paintings created in this program left plenty of room for happy accidents and magical messes, reinforcing the idea that all parts of the process are completely essential to the final piece, regardless of how messy, ugly or accidental.”
In addition to the work of “Surrender,” The Foster Gallery features the work of 17 featured rotation artists whose work is for sale in the gallery and online.
The Foster Gallery, located at 495 Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, Fla. is open seven days a week, 12-7 PM, and is accessible to all. For more information, visit CulturalArtsAlliance.com.