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Prisoner art on display in art gallery as part of rehabilitation research

Artwork created by men serving sentences has gone on display alongside the work of Picasso in Leicester’s New Walk Museum.

UNLOCKED features the work of men at HMP Leicester, HMP Stocken and the now-closed Glen Parva Young Offenders’ Institution (YOI) as well as those on probation.

Unlocked Prison Art

EYE-OPENING: Just one of the drawings done by the men at HMP Leicester as part of art this project

Alongside the annual exhibition – which is split between sites at New Walk Museum and Soft Touch Arts Young People’s Arts and Heritage Centre across the road – there will be a three-year research project led by academics at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

DMU’s Dr Victoria Knight, senior research fellow in Community and Criminal Justice, and Ben Carpenter, Associate Head of Visual and Performing Arts, will be leading the research working alongside Soft Touch Arts and Leicestershire Partnership Trust.

They will be examining whether art has a positive effect on prisoners’ mental health to support new arts-based approaches to rehabilitation, both in custody and in the community.

Dr Knight said: "This is an opportunity to learn more about the people behind the art they produce and how this process helps the cope with both prison and resettling back into the community."

The art exhibition, which opens to the public today (Friday September 14) will sit alongside the Attenborough family’s collection of Picasso ceramics, Victorian classical paintings and the city’s internationally-renowned collected of German Expressionism.

It developed from an arts project which had been run for many years at Glen Parva YOI, facilitated by Soft Touch. When the prison was closing, the project was transferred to HMP Leicester with the support of then governor, Phil Novis.

Art workers Kieran Walsh and Lewis Buttery of Soft Touch Arts worked with the men on a broad range of themes and in different media, creating artwork that draw attention away from the visual surroundings of the prison environment.
The programme also incorporates offenders outside the prison environment, in partnership with probation services.

A spokesperson for the project said: “UNLOCKED will introduce new concepts to address the needs of an increasingly neglected group of people who experience mental health problems, and to evidence the efficacy of the arts methodology through an academic study.”

The UNLOCKED programme has been funded by Arts Council England, Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner, #DMUlocal and The Gordon Trust.

Posted on Friday 14th September 2018

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