Art with conviction; inmates present art show

Giving back to the community is part of an inmate's healing process, said Nevada State Prison's associate warden for programming James Baca.

"Just because they are incarcerated doesn't mean they can't give back," Baca said. "It is a commitment they have made to the community. They have victimized people in their crimes, and they have to learn to give back to the community. It is our process."

The medium-security-facility inmates are presenting the second prison art show and sale today and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. Most of the proceeds will go to Empire Elementary School; other funds will help replenish the prisoners' art materials supply.

The show is coordinated by the Vietnam Veterans Association 545, the Nevada inmates chapter. More than 100 inmates participate in the association.

Baca said the prisoners gave nearly $2,000 to the school last year.

"It was a nice reward for the inmates," Baca said. "We like to see that their work has educational benefits."

There will be 300 to 400 items sold. The show is at the Nevada State Prison and will include leather work, rock art, bracelets, purses and wood carvings.

Inmates teach themselves to create the crafts or take classes through Western Nevada Community College.

Belts, purses, mocasins for adults and children and bookmarks are constructed out of leather. Boxes, chess set, windmills, jewelry boxes, covered wagons are carved out of wood.

Baca said the rock crafts are some of the most popular items in the show. The crafts are made from the same sandstone used in the construction of the state capital.

"The rocks are very unique," he said. "It is a dynamic hobby craft."

Prices for rock crafts will start at $20 and go as high as $400 for a giant frog sculpture.

"You have to see all the crafts first-hand, especially the rocks," Baca said.

The Nevada State Prison houses about 710 prisoners. Some are convicted murderers and sex offenders who have exhibited good behavior and no longer need high-level security.

Baca said the inmates have aided in many community projects.

"They have helped construct the memorial wall in Mills Park, the new planetarium walkway and (Nevada Department of Transportation) memorial rocks, commemorating all their employees who have died while in service," he said.

Prisoners also gave $10,000 to United Way. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People inmate chapter works with the Nevada State Hispanic Services to create a $500 scholarship for a high school graduate.

Baca said the inmates are planning another art show around Christmas.

If you go:

What: Prison art show

Where: Nevada State Prison, 3301 E. Fifth St.

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., today and Wednesday


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