Inspiration Matterz brings art instruction to inmates in the Alexandria Detention Center. Each week Ms Kelli teaches classes to about 25 men and 25 women inmates. And to a similar group of women who in transition housing for women who have been released recently from detention. Until this year, she has been completely self-funded.
Inspiration Matterz is Del Ray Artisans' newest outreach fundraising initiative. Del Ray Artisans has committed to helping Ms Kelli fund her instruction and to help identify additional art instructors so more inmates can participate.
In addition to teaching for the Alexandria Detention Center, Kelli teaches weekly at an Alexandria-based transition home for women coming out of prison.
Her two weekly classes in the Detention Center – one for men and one for women – attract 20-25 individuals each. The program has been well received by the inmates and the Sheriff’s staff. Kelli reports that the guards who work weekly with the inmates have stated that there has been a marked improvement in morale of the inmates both within the interpersonal relationships of the inmates and with the staff.
They report that the men and women talk about her classes during the week and express their enthusiasm for each upcoming class. Kelli's personal experience has proven her belief that many who find themselves incarcerated are often people who have been neglected in basic creative instruction who have not developed personal tools that help deal with life’s daily frustrations. She has witnessed the growth of self-worth and self-esteem through the act of learning a process and seeing the result of the labor of one’s own hands.
Here's Kelli talking about a recent experience:
"One of my male students loves to draw but sometimes has difficulty expressing his thoughts verbally. His verbal clarity sort of comes and goes. One evening during class one of the male students sitting by him said to me, "Why aren't you a tattoo artist? Tattoo artists make a lot of money." And the guy sitting next to him said, "Yeah, probably more than you get paid to be here!" I shook my head and said, "No, I'm not paid to be here. I am a volunteer." They both looked completely shocked. Then one said, "Not get paid? Why would you do that?!" I replied, "Because I care about you guys and I like you. And, of course, because I love art." They sat quietly for a moment. Then the young man I mentioned who had been quietly listening to this interaction said without looking up from his drawing, "You say you come here because you like us...... (Pause)..... Well, because you do this you make us like ourselves."
In that moment I remembered why I am doing this and what art has done for me during the rough points of my life. His words summed it up perfectly."
Drawings by inmates were displayed at the Sheriff’s tent at the 2017 Arts on the Avenue and festival goers could vote for their favorite Art from Alexandria's inmates.
Your contribution will help fund Kelli and additional instructors introduce more inmates and recently released women to art in a way that is self-affirming, supportive and a tool to help them transition back into the Alexandria community.