September 12, 2010
On Hatteberg's People, prisons are cold places where convicted criminals go to repay society. We think of bars and metal, gray and green colors and place where time stands still. It is all of that. Glenn Lygrisse is a dean at Butler Community College. He is also a man who cares deeply about humanity.
An artist once said, that a work of art is a confession. If so, that quote certainly applies to these pictures hanging in the Butler Community College Art Museum. They were done by inmates at the El Dorado Correctional Facility.
"One of the messages they would like to give out is - Don't mess up like I did!" Lygrisse said.
Glenn Lygrisse is the reason why they are hanging at the college.
Glen is Dean for Enrollment Management. He's also a teacher, and he's involved in a prison ministry. One day he was given a painting the a prisoner who he was mentoring.
"I saw what it did for his self esteem,” Lygrisse said. “You could give me a gift of monetary value, but this means more because it is a gift from the heart."
The picture was painted by inmate Mikel Trumbley and added those pictures on display at Butler Community College.
"These pictures are coming from the general population, not the segregation unit, so the inmates have to earn this privilege in order to participate," Lygrisse said.
At the El Dorado Correctional Facility, inmates, whose identities I could not show, paint where one imagines that the inmate artists can artistically escape for a few hours while putting brush to canvas.
Lygrisse says it made a difference in the inmate he mentors.
"Before this, he was having many more problems dealing with anger issues and interpersonal relationships and things of that nature. Since this time and our time of mentoring, he has developed into a better person," Lygrisse said. "These are ways in which people can give back, in a very small way, but can give back to society what they took away."
"These chessboards are an example of what you might call 'trash' art. Because this one is made from newspapers that is hand-rolled up very carefully, painted and then glued into place to form the chessboard. This one was made from discarded popsicle sticks," Lygrisse said.
"What it is about is that I am looking for something beyond the crime. Let's say how we can take this person who did a bad thing, and help them be a better person," Lygrisse said.
Lygrisse was able to convince others at the college that a display of prisoner art would not only be beneficial for the inmates by giving them a calm way to deal with their issues, but it would open the communities eyes to another level of prison life.
"It was the right thing to do... yes," Lygrisse said.
It will remain on display until September 24th at the Fine Arts Building in the White Gallery on the campus of Butler County Community College.