Greenough Regional Prison is an unlikely home to a gifted group of Aboriginal artists hailing from communities with a strong heritage in painting throughout regional Western Australia. Let the country come in exhibits the results of an artist development program delivered inside the prison over 18 months which saw the artists (who cannot be named by law) led through ongoing workshops with an experienced mentor.
The program is facilitated by FORM, a Western Australian not-for-profit cultural organisation and supported by the Department of Corrective Services. Running since the beginning of 2009, the program is a response to research showing that prison arts programs increase the likelihood of prisoner rehabilitation and enhance self-esteem by reorienting offenders and empowering them to make strong choices for their futures in preparation for release and once they are outside prison.
The program also works with the knowledge that for many remote and regional Aboriginal people, art enables access to independent incomes and economic choices, while creating a space where people from different language groups and cultural traditions interact and share.
Art offers prisoners a logical and culturally appropriate pathway towards professional development, employment and a sense of purpose beyond a prison existence. Prison mentor Helen Ansell teaches the artists the principles of quality artistic practice and the economic and vocational opportunities this can present on the outside, and in this way art enables a stable future as much as it does confidence and self-esteem.
The artists in this exhibition are skilled, talented, and carry within them a strong, almost metaphysical connection to their country and culture. This is reflected in this artist’s statement, which inspired the exhibition title: ˜You can feel it. Keep an open mind, let the country come to you. When I go out bush, I can read the country, I know the stories. When I paint: I’m in there, that country, walkin’ along.’
Less experienced artists may often be learning in the presence of well-established senior Aboriginal practitioners. This is the case within Greenough Regional Prison, which houses talented painters new to art alongside some of Australia’s most respected Aboriginal artists and artistic communities: Let the country come in showcases their creative outcomes in this powerful exhibition of painting.
Exhibition runs Saturday September 10 to Sunday November 20, 2011
Opening night: Friday September 9, 2011 at the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery
To be opened by Hon Murray Criddle Chairman, Midwest Development Commission
Category: Australia ,