SVS senior project to be presented

Gunn Memorial Library in Washington will present a special exhibit featuring prisoner art April 25 through April 30.

A reception will be held April 28 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Wykeham Road library.

Shepaug Valley School senior Sierra Soletsky assembled the exhibit.

Sierra researched art rehabilitation programs, a topic that reflects both her love for art and her interest in pursuing a law enforcement career, for her senior project.

Her search led to “Arts in Prison,” an especially notable program founded in 1993 at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas where the recidivism rate for AIP participants is half the usual rate in Kansas.

Working closely with the program’s executive director, Sierra assembled the exhibit.

“I didn’t correspond with the prisoners directly,” Sierra said. “But the director asked them my questions, sent me their artwork as well as their writings about the program and what it’s done for them.”

Sierra said AIP-trained volunteers come to the prison to teach a variety of art classes including drawing, painting, sculpting and multi-media.

“Most rehabilitation programs across the country focus on only one art form, but Arts in Prison offers a large variety because not every art form appeals to everyone,” she said. “But everyone needs to be involved in the arts.”

In addition to Lansing, the AIP program has expanded to the U.S. Federal Detention Center in Leavenworth and the Topeka Correctional Facility for Women.

In addition, it has conducted special programs for the Johnson County Residential Center as well as the Johnson County and Wyandotte County Juvenile Detention Centers.

“From what I have seen and read, there is evidence that AIP is really working,” Sierra said. “The prisoners use the arts as a way to channel their feelings and a way to change and control their actions. They have learned how to be a part of a community, how to see change in themselves, and what it means to be respected as a person.”