Inmates Teach Art Classes at Cumberland Prison
11/17/2011
WHAG-TV - Online

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CUMBERLAND, MD - Inmates are teaching inmates in art classes at a Cumberland prison, often paining scenes they never get to see.

James Harrison has had a long time to focus on his art, 15 years to be exact.

"I've been here so long I've become part of the furniture," says Harrison.

He's a Baltimore native serving time for homicide, but he's also an artist who teaches art classes for the other inmates.

"It gives them a chance to get away from the inside buildings, and they get outside, and they come here for an hour or two," says Harrison. "They're able to relieve some of the tension and just relax."

His works, landscapes and still lifes come from memory. They line prison hallways as a colorful distraction.

"Portraits, you usually do what you see and the artists always see something different," says Harrison. "So I try to put that in my paintings and portraits."

Sending their works to exhibitions or selling them for charity allows these inmates' art to be seen somewhere they can't go, beyond the prison fences.

"The talent that has come out of this institution is really remarkable in some of the talents these guys do have," says Sgt. Ken Keller.

Art made by inmates at the two Cumberland prisons is now on display at Allegany College. Some of it was made by Harrison and artists in his class.

"It gives them time out of their cell and they can come out and express themselves," says Keller.

"It takes me away to my heart," says Harrison. "I'm peaceful, I'm tranquil."

His art is his escape.

The Allegany College exhibition includes more than 20 works from inmate artists and will be on view through January 27.