Local "jailed" artists given cash, sent to prisons

Local "jailed" artists given cash, sent to prisons

Rose Hill has been teaching art to local jail inmates since 2005; now she and her colleague Lindsay Michie Eades will enjoy funding to expand their efforts, with a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts

The deadline for submitting grant applications to the Virginia Commission for the Arts for 2007-2008 fell on March 1, 2007. "This is a receipt deadline, not a postmark deadline," the application reads. As if local artist Rose Hill weren’t busy enough.

As reported by C-VILLE on February 13, Hill and fellow artist Lindsay Michie Eades have, since 2005, volunteered their time at the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail, where they teach concentrated groups of inmates—men and women, of all ages and convictions—to design sculptures, paintings and ceramics during multiweek workshops. Despite a show by Hill’s most recent class of inmates at McGuffey Art Center that closed on February 25, Hill and Eades managed to mail their applications by the deadline.

"First time we had applied for a grant, and we got it!" says Hill, five months later and with a $4,000 matching project grant at her disposal. "It floored me."

For the 2008 fiscal year, VCA distributed more than $6.6 million to artists and programs across the state. "Area 5," a canvas of cities that includes Richmond, Palmyra, Colonial Beach and Charlottesville, received a total just shy of $1.2 million, with organizations and individuals in Charlottesville receiving a total of more than $150,000.

Though a few local art organizations nabbed bigger bucks—Second Street Gallery brought in more than $15,000, while the Music Resource Center received more than $26,000, both for general operating support—VCA’s program coordinator, Cathy Welborn, mentions that project grants like that received by Hill and Eades "can be up to $10,000."

"[It is] one of the highest-funded project grants in Area 5," says Welborn of the inmate art program. "[It] had a good reception."

Welborn offered a list of comments from the Area 5 panel, which includes Steven Levine, former executive director of First Night Virginia, and Peppy Linden, the executive director of the Virginia Discovery Museum. "This project would affect both inmates and our perception of incarcerated individuals in a positive way…great social need for this type of service…potential to heal these individuals…a pilot program that could be replicated."

And Hill is relying on similar support from private funds. As a matching grant, Hill and Eades could come away with as much as $8,000 to fund supplies and the artists’ work for 12-week classes at Buckingham and Dillwyn correctional centers. Eades mentions that BAMA Works, the Dave Matthews Band’s charity fund, is currently a private funder of the program.

With hopes to start programs at both prisons this fall ("We thought we’d only have enough funds to do Buckingham. Now that this is a matching grant, we hope we can do both," says Hill), the planning process for the classes starts this week, when Hill and Eades meet with prison authorities to discuss preparations. "Once we present our ideas, then they’ll let us know what supplies we can and cannot have," says Hill.

C-VILLE welcomes news tips from readers. Send them to news@c-ville.com.

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