Art on the inside

A charming Caymanian scene by one of the prisoners.

As art collections go, the pieces to be found at HMP Northward are some of the most inspiring on the island.

For they are created by inmates as part of the Art Mindfulness project which is used as a recreational, educational and therapeutic technique.

The artwork is sold by the prison and can be purchased by the public.

The entrance to HMP Northward. Photographs: ALVARO SEREY

Benefits

“Art Mindfulness is a technique used to help occupy prisoners in a calming and productive activity, sometimes while listening to music or engaged in counselling,” says correctional counsellor Rachel Whitlock, who leads the project. “It is also an activity they can continue in their cells in the evenings and weekends to give them something purposeful to do.

“It is also rewarding and encouraging for the men to have people buying items they have produced.”

The pieces include portraits, landscapes, silhouettes, sketches, abstract art and fluid art. However, prisoners can do what they choose, as long as the art is not offensive to anyone.
“The use of bright colours, and experimenting with different techniques, brings a positive and calm distraction to the prison environment,” says Rachel. “It is a safe place to experiment with ideas and make mistakes without any major consequences or judgement.”

The artwork is displayed in Northward, giving inmates a sense of pride.

Since the project began in 2018, there has been a large amount of art created, with some sold at Grand Cayman’s agricultural show, as well as purchased by prison staff.

The cost of the material is deducted from profits, but the remainder is given to the artists. Artwork is priced individually, depending on the time taken to produce it and the quality of the picture.

“Art Mindfulness is multifaceted in its benefits, which can range from helping prisoners to take their focus away from their problems and issues for a period of time, to assisting them in coping in a pro-social and creative manner,” says Rachel.

How to buy the art

Details of the artwork are available from correctional counsellor Rachel Whitlock, who can be contacted on 640-3000 (ext. 4027) or at [email protected]

Examples can also be found on Instagram at @hmcip_art_mindfulness.

 

Originally published in InsideOut magazine issue Spring/Summer 2021.

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