The Hamilton County Jail is harboring … artists. That’s correct. I said, artists.
As a part of a 10-week program sponsored by Mark Making, a Chattanooga arts organization that focuses on the underserved, inmates received art classes that culminated with inmates revealing a 400-foot mural created with their own discretion and implementations.
Backed by funding from the State of Tennessee, Mark Making brought in Chattanooga artists Charlie Newton and Rondell Crier (who was profiled in The Pulse’s 2012 State of the Arts issue last August) to guide the incarcerated artists to create the mural, entitled “Universe Space.”
The program focused on themes such as freedom and confinement (two elements very much on the minds of inmates) and creating an outer space when confined to an inner space (also very much on the minds of inmates).
According to Mark Making’s Frances McDonald, the project was developed as an exercise to help inmates distinguish between physical and emotional learning and examining what issues are matters of control and choice. The concept apparently touched a nerve with inmates and bore fruit in the form of an artistic achievement that also aided in personal growth.
“I have helped build something that more people can enjoy and something I can look back on and feel proud about,” artist inmate Lathe Juan Corbin said. “I learned how to pace myself when dealing with something new to me and that with every stroke of color brings a smile to someone else’s future.”
The mural and its creation, documented in photographs, will be presented as an exhibit downtown at the Hamilton County-Chattanooga Courts Building lobby at 600 Market St. The opening reception for “Universe Space” will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5. The exhibit will be on display until May 3.