Digital Exclusive: Lackawanna County Prison Art Exhibit

Digital Exclusive

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Lackawanna County Prison is holding an art exhibit featuring the works of inmates.

This isn’t your typical gallery, but for the artists behind the exhibit being held in the lobby at the entrance of the Lackawanna County Prison, there is more to this show than just impressive artwork. Colleen Orzel, the population control officer at the prison, says that the name of the exhibit was specifically chosen for its message from the inmates to the public.

“We came up with a title called ‘We Are More’. And my understanding of that title is we are more than just inmates, we are more than just the crimes we committed, we are more than our addictions and diseases. And it gives them a voice,” Orzel said.

William Hurt, who is in prison for a robbery, says one of his poems was based on the theme.

“For society to look at us. That we are our stigmas. You know that can hurt us and hinder us from acclimating back into that society. And that was what my poem was about,” Hurt said.

The prison and the Pennsylvania Prison Society teamed up to receive a grant for the art program. They originally planned to publish and sell a calendar using the inmates’ artwork and writings, but the idea expanded into a full-blown art exhibit. According to Orzel, working on the art gives the inmates something positive to do.

“While they’re here, time’s wasted. You know, they’re just here. Idle hands. Thinking about the things they could have done better. So art clearly is therapeutic,” Orzel said.

“Basically my whole life, I’ve dealt with things the wrong way. Since I’ve been here I learned I can draw. I put a lot of pain and feeling into what I draw, ” Andrew Danko said, who is in prison for drug charges. “It’s where I can just sit and I don’t care. I don’t even know I’m in prison sometimes when I’m sitting there drawing,” Danko said.

Not only does drawing and writing help the inmates to pass time, it also helps them express themselves and show their potential. One of Wilver Veras’ pieces in the exhibit was completed in three days. Veras, who is in prison also on drug charges, says he was inspired by the idea of second chances.

“That piece to me was having a second chance. Being able to resurrect from… I’m not saying that this is death, but this is a low point in our lives. And we just want to come back from that,” Veras said.

“What I put into my work is the feelings that I had, the feelings that I have, and feelings that I want to have. Like who I was, who I am now, and who I want to be and who I will be and potentially can be. ‘Cause I was an addict. I was an alcoholic. I wanna voice this and not let the whispers be silent anymore. And rise above that too,” Hurt said.

The ‘We Are More’ exhibit will run through the weekend at the prison. Then the artwork will be displayed throughout the city at various locations.
The calendars are currently being printed. Profits from their sales will go towards further funding for the arts program.

After the exhibit the artwork will be shown at the Administrative Building in downtown Scranton, the Courthouse Square, and the Wonderstone Gallery, among other places.

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