Studio B Fine Art Gallery at Boyertown Prison Art

Boyertown’s Studio B Fine Art Gallery opened “Prison Art and Experience,” a discussion and art exhibit in the studio’s Gray Gallery.

“The event was a passionate request from incarcerated curator Richard Guy,” said Susan Biebuyck, gallery director at Studio B. “It’s an attempt to educate people about the prison experience and show how people find a way of expression using art. Participants would derive this from art. Considering the amount of sales we have had, this has been understood very well.

Former inmate Joe Romeri and Jody Guy (cousin of curator Richard A. Guy), executive director and founders of the Wilkinsburg Civic Center, visited Studio B on October 24 to talk about prison life and art. (Photo submitted)

The exhibition of art and the experience of prisoners, represented by inmate Richard A. Guy, focuses on the art course in pencil drawing offered to prisoners.

“The focus of the class enabled each inmate to overcome the restrictive prison environment to see the world from a new perspective and express themselves through the visual arts,” Guy said in a statement.

Guy, serving a life sentence at Fayette State Correctional Facility, launched The Prism Project’s first exhibition, “Inside Artists Reaching Out,” featuring artwork from inmates at the Carnegie Library by Braddock in 2014.

For the Studio B exhibit, all designs predate pandemic lockdown status. All 3D art was done in the cell during COVID. The majority of pencil drawings were made by students who had no prior art education or experience. In addition, most of the drawings were of traditional art, landscapes, still lifes and portraits.

“I personally hope that people will recognize the talents of incarcerated men and women and how art can provide a valuable therapeutic experience, recognize the humanity of prisoners and their desire to be offered a second chance through their rehabilitation for reintegrating into society, recognizing the need for services and people to help their return, ”said Jane Stahl, director of community relations at Studio B.

“Nonviolent offenders in prison for life without parole seem a waste of life and resources,” Stahl added.

Opening of the exhibition

Customers attended the exhibition opening in person on October 29 as well as at home virtually via Facebook Live. The exhibition, a complement to the studio’s “Abstract, Impressionism and Real Estate” exhibition will run until November 28.

“The exhibit offers an overview of how the prison experience has changed in recent years, how current events and politics affect the prison experience, and some suggestions regarding reintegration, as well as a suggestion for consideration. the goal of the prison experience as a rehabilitation against a life sentence, ”Stahl said.

The Studio B Fine Art Gallery in Boyertown opened the Prison Art and Experience, curated by inmate Richard A. Guy. The pencil drawing art course is offered to inmates. The majority of pencil drawings were made by students who had no prior art education or experience. (Photo submitted)

Statements and artist profiles accompany the artwork. To communicate the prison experience to clients, a publication of Department of Corrections documents and supporting references provides an perspective on rules, policies and procedures, including authorized art materials, religious activities and rules. housing units.

“Showing the artistic talents and experiences of people often seen as ‘throwaway’ inspires empathy in those of us who, without the grace of God in many cases, have faced different life circumstances and happier, ”Stahl said.

Discussion of prison life and art

Beyond the exhibition, Studio B aimed to facilitate discussion to educate the community about prison life and the benefits of art for inmates.

“I learned a lot about the prison experience, the hardships of those who are incarcerated and those who are not taken care of after their release,” Stahl said. “I have learned that the Pennsylvania prison system is in need of reform. The exhibition and the conversations I had with those involved were revealing and inspiring.

Joe Romeri, former inmate, and Jody Guy (cousin of Richard A. Guy), executive director and founders of the Wilkinsburg Civic Center, visited Studio B on October 24 to talk about the prison experience and the role it plays. art in the life of a prisoner. Historian Bob Wood moderated the discussion, which brought together a dozen people.

The purpose of the event was to provide general information about the artists whose work is on display and to provide details and an understanding of prison life and how the artists were able to create the work given the limitations supplies and services, ”Stahl said. .

Romeri reflects on her own prison experience and the challenges of reintegration on the studio’s B Inspired podcast.

“I hope they understood what life in prison is like and that the reality is that some people, unless things change, no matter what they do inside, will never get out,” Romeri said. “(I hope) they help educate others about how the prison system works, that spending $ 1.5 billion a year to maintain corrections is such a waste.”

Speaking of the benefits of art classes in prison, Romeri said people are getting involved and motivated.

“They feel good about themselves and that transcends to more things in prison,” he said. “Now you might be motivated to learn a skill and just do well. “

For many decades, the goal of incarceration was rehabilitation, Romeri said.

“But something changed along the way. Society has changed. People got angrier. People have become more vigilant. They just wanted people to be inside and be punished.

“Instead of having productive citizens coming out of prisons, it’s usually the other way around,” he continued. “The people who come out and become productive citizens are very few compared to those who come out and struggle… and usually go back to prison.”

For the most part, the prison is a revolving door of inmates coming and going, but others change their lives inside the prison; “It’s up to the individual to take advantage of it and really get something out of it.

Thanking his work ethic for his successful reinstatement, he learned to be an electrician, earned a bachelor’s degree in information science, and held various jobs including carpentry, dog training, teaching algebra. in college and the role of facilitator for peers, as well as working as an electrician in prison.

“When I went to prison (at 16), I wanted to improve. At one point I didn’t think I would leave, but I just wanted to become a better person than the one I walked in, ”said Romeri who was released on parole 5 years ago. “It was something about me that kept motivating me, pushing me… In the long run, it helped me prepare better for release.”

Listen to the podcast at https://anchor.fm/jane-stahl/episodes/Joe-Romeri–Former-Prison-Lifer–Inspiring-Empathy-e19mfs7.

Prison reform

Regarding the chat event, Stahl said, “I think what happened with this event was that it inspired a kind of empathy for those in prison. A lot of people see them as rubbish and seeing you and listening to you speak, they realize humanity and what a waste of money and humanity in the way we treat people in prison.

In another B Inspired podcast, Stahl spoke about prison reform with Amanda Cappelletti, a 2005 Boyertown alumnus of the 17th Senate District of Montgomery and Delaware counties.

“People are just asking for support and resources to be able to change. I believe in giving people the grace to change, ”said Cappelletti. “I believe if this is supposed to be a rehab system, which it is supposed to be, then sentence someone to life in prison without parole, like we can do here in Pennsylvania (there is has a lot of people dying in the prison system because of it), who don’t do what they’re supposed to do.

Speaking of efforts in the Senate to address prison reform, Cappelletti said: “We are working on some of these issues and we are trying to make a change.”

Listen to the podcast at https://anchor.fm/jane-stahl/episodes/Catching-Up–A-Chat-with-2005-BASH-Grad-now-PA-State-Senator-Amanda-Cappelletti-e19hl89.

Studio B invites visitors to the gallery on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment, contact Susan Biebuyck, suebie@ptd.net, 484-332-2757 or Jane Stahl, janeEstahl@comcast.net, 610-563 -7879.

Follow Studio B on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StudioB.Boyertown.Studio B Fine Art Gallery, located at 39A East Philadelphia Ave. in Boyertown, is home to the Arts and Activities Alliance, a building committee to Better Boyertown, a Main Street nonprofit program dedicated to small town revitalization.


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William E. Bennett

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