An art show next month in central Iowa will feature women artists from across the state who all share one trait — they’re in prison. Des Moines artist Mary Muller is in her third year of teaching art to inmates within the walls of the state women’s prison at Mitchellville. Muller says she looks for potential students in women prisoners who have a spark of talent and a motivation to succeed.
Muller says, "You put these two together, then you can build somebody who can actually use their art in positive ways economically, but it also builds up their self-esteem and gives them a sense of accomplishment." She says, "My goal also was to get them so when they left prison, they had something to fall back on, something to build with and possibly help make some income." Muller says she started working with women inmates who would be getting out of prison, eventually.
"Many of them are there because of drugs and abuse but it’s low-income and if people can have this resource to build on, then I thought, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be great if they could come out and they could build a better life?’," Muller says. "several of the inmates are serving long-term sentences, and Muller says they’re finding new purpose in life from their participation in the class. She says several of her current students at Mitchellville are "lifers."
Muller says: "Many of my students are not going to be leaving prison and I have a whole new direction in the sense of, ‘All right. How do we save a wasted life? What can we do with a person who is not going to get out? What can they do with themselves while they’re there to develop something of a positive nature?’" The art in pastels, pencil and oil paint is mostly portraits, still life and landscapes, and is all priced below 125-dollars.
Muller says 80-percent of the money raised goes back to the artists, with ten-percent each going for the art supplies and to charity. The exhibit will run through November at Gloria Dei (day) Lutheran Church in Urbandale.