Handout 2: Justice Art
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Charles H. Lawson is a self-taught artist serving a life sentence at Graterford Prison.
Charles Lawson's art has been exhibited at the Philadelphia Art Museum, Temple University, the Methodist Annual Convention, Inmate Art Shows and other venues. He is the co-creator of the Crime Prevention Program, Road Map for Life (C) His art and statements stimulate dialogue with at risk youth about the critical issues they face in their lives.
I have two major goals in exhibiting my artwork. My first goal is to inspire the young to look at their own talents and turn away from violence and the threats of peer pressure that can lead to places like the halls of the criminal justice system and eventually to prison. Growing up in Philadelphia I knew the poverty and violence that young people live with every day. Peer pressure was a constant reality and survival was dependent on how you were perceived. If I can inspire just one or two persons, then I can count myself among those who have tried and succeeded. So I say to you, whatever your talent or ability, I was 35 years old and in prison before I recognized my talent to paint. DON'T YOU WAIT!
My second goal is a HOPE. As you look at my work, it is like I am standing before you and this hopeful goal encompasses the whole of my being. It is my hope that in viewing my artwork you will recognize that even in prison there are individuals who have worth and have something to contribute to their communities. I believe that redemption is possible, even for long-term offenders. If you can see the value in my artwork, then I truly HOPE you come away with a determination to see that changes are made so that such worth is no longer wasted, but put to constructive use.
Artists can raise consciousness, whether it be in showing the beauty and integrity we need to preserve in our day-to-day lives—or in showing the pain and injustice we need to address and correct. If my art has given you pause.....and in that pause, you feel and see something outside of yourself that can help Trans-Form your understanding, and Trans-Form your actions, then I have made a contribution to your life.
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