Regency on Whidbey is bringing an unusual art show to Oak Harbor in February.
The Regency Arts and Letters Forum program will present an inmate art show from Feb. 1-15, sponsored by Mighty to Save Ministries. Ministry founder Christina Bowling will also talk about the art at a presentation at 10 a.m. on Feb. 10 at Regency.
“You’ll see a lot of what I would call graffiti art, tattoo art, some that has Japanese symbols for honor, courage and strength,” said Bowling. “There is one collage, a lot of pencil and charcoal work and one guy creates a lot of his work with pen.”
The inmate art show sprang from Bowling’s weekly visits at the Island County jail. As she developed relationships with people, they stayed in contact after they went to prison.
“Throughout this process, I saw amazing pieces of art,” she said. “There was just so much talent.”
Bowling began Mighty to Save Ministries and the jail visitation program in 2012. She said she started the ministry after her daughter’s struggle with addiction landed her in jail, then prison. Bowling now focuses on those still struggling with, or who are overcoming, drug addiction.
“The inmates are just so passionate about it,” she said. “They love the cause and want to be part of it.”
According to Bowling, once inmates are transferred to prison, they have more time and more resources to create art.
“I think some have known they have artistic abilities and are able to tap into it more when they’re in prison because they have time,” she said. “And because they’re overcoming addiction, it becomes an outlet.”
One might think it would be had to find inspiration while in a cell, but that’s not the case.
“Sometimes they are inspired by the people around them,” she said, describing one inmate in Monroe who creates sculptures using bits of paper and glue. “He’s very creative. People will just watch what he’s doing from his cell. They really thrive on being creative and the originality of what they create.”
Bowling said the inmates involved in the art program have learned to look at their time in prison as time to refocus and be positive.
“I think it gives them pride,” she said. “They are doing something and doing it well, taking ownership. Another reason too why they’re eager is because it gives them the means of helping. They want to be part of the solution. They want to give back. This is something they can do, they can send out. It’s very liberating for them.”
The current show features about 20 works of art. While an auction last June had several pieces by inmates from Whidbey Island, the current show features work by inmates from all over the state. Proceeds from the June auction benefited the ministry. Bowling said one of the goals of the ministry is to establish a transitional housing program. In the meantime, her weekly jail visits will continue, as will the art program. Most important to her, though, is making a difference.
“We don’t usually know what happens to people when they get out,” she said. “Last Friday I got a random phone call from a gal we met in jail a year ago. She called and said ‘I want you to know I’ve got over a year sober, I’m doing well and I just wanted to say thank you.’”
Regency on Whidbey is located at 1040 SW Kimball. The inmate art will be on display there from Feb. 1-15. For more information on Mighty to Save Ministries, click here.