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The Kentucky Foundation for Women Bridging Divides grant recently awarded to Arts Connect Eastern Kentucky (ACEky) will enable weekly arts sessions with several women in the Knox County Detention Center. 

Activities will include poetry, story-writing, collage, 3-D and visual arts. Over the past several years, Jailer Mary Hammons, staff members and ACEky artists have noted the program’s stress-relieving benefits for inmates.  While self-expression is an outcome of making art, self-exploration and discovery are involved in the process. The program is aimed at giving incarcerated art-makers opportunities to connect with values, explore beliefs and articulate aspects of themselves they want to identify with most strongly.  In this sense, the act of making art can be an act of self- healing. 

The healing effects of making art are especially important after release, and during and after recovery.  Art, like being the person we want to be takes time and requires doing some things that are not easy. Art is a means for practicing patience in making and re-making, for creating a more effective way to communicate and for trudging through times when the outcome isn’t clear.  Art offers a safe practice in trying and faltering, but persisting in seeing something through. Being able to communicate more effectively, to rebuild courage in hard times, having interests that are self-healing are all effects of art-making that show up inside jail and that can ripple out through these women’s children, families, employers and the communities where they live.

This year, the jail’s developing garden project will offer an opportunity to develop and implement a ‘mending and tending’ curriculum in collaboration with various Barbourville community members.  Gardening offers experience in nurturing living things that the arts can then provide the means for reflecting on and communicating the value of being a person who pays attention and nurtures in the world. The on-line exhibit this grant helps provide will give KCDC participants opportunities to share their thinking and their work with the community. 

The Bridging Divides grant will also enable ACEky to conduct a year-long study of the program’s impact on women incarcerated in KCDC and, through our work in Pulaski County with Sky Hope Recovery Center residents and graduates, on achieving and maintaining recovery.

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