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Beyond bars: Art showcases impact of justice system and hope for future

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Showcasing detailed acrylic paintings, hand-made quilts and sculptures, ArtSpoken, an event hosted by Public Advocates in Community Re-Entry (PACE), displayed a wide array of art made by incarcerated individuals in Indiana.

Artwork by inmates is displayed around the PACE office for their ArtSpoken event April 25. (Photo/Hanna Rauworth)

“It’s really an amazing thing and an amazing event,” said Yvonne Smith, director of employment services for PACE. Patrons enjoyed a large display of artwork available for purchase, an assortment of food and beverages, performances by local musicians and a live auction of select art pieces.

The annual ArtSpoken fundraiser seeks to showcase the talents and artistic expressions of those impacted by the justice system in the state of Indiana. Through their work, PACE’s mission is “to provide a variety of services to individuals and families impacted by the justice system to ensure they are afforded the opportunity to lead productive and responsible lives in their communities,” according to their website.

The art ranged from pencil drawings of lions to scenic images of lakes and depictions of how the artists were impacted by their incarceration. The idea of second chances, a common motif in the works of art, is also echoed by the organization as they work to get their clients back on their feet.

“April is second chance month. People deserve a second chance,” said Rhiannon Edwards, executive director of PACE.

Founded in 1960, PACE’s operating principle is that no matter the crime or time spent incarcerated, everyone deserves the resources and opportunities to be successful when they are released from incarceration. With values centered around service, social justice, dignity, human relationships, integrity, and competence, they provide the basic needs and services to encourage recently released members of the community to reengage and gain access to jobs, housing and stability.

“A lot of the people here tonight – staff, [donors], community members, have spent time incarcerated. It’s a testament to what can be done with a little help,” said Bill West, chair of the board of directors for PACE.

In addition to the display of art, PACE also offered patrons the chance to donate gas cards and money towards steel-toed boots for their clients. Both of which, they explained, are essential for those looking to be reintroduced following incarceration. For $25 worth of gas or $50 towards a pair of boots, a client can gain access to education and job opportunities following incarceration.

“Everything that is donated or purchased allows us to continue to do this work. It allows us to continue to be better and be greater,” said Edwards.

The ArtSpoken event encouraged donations for PACE’s many other initiatives offered across the state, while at the same time helping inmates and those recently released from incarceration realize a talent and a means of expression they may have never explored.

“The artists are amazing. In many cases, they’ve discovered talents they’ve never known. That will help them make a successful transition back into their community,” said West.

For more information about PACE and the work they do, visit https://paceindy.org/ .

Contact Staff Writer Hanna Rauworth at 317.762.7854 or follow her at @hanna.rauworth 

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