Exhibit features artwork by Wisconsin inmates

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- The 513FREE Prison Ministry and the Heyde Center for the Arts are teaming up to bring the community a new exhibit that features artwork by inmates from across the state of Wisconsin.

513FREE Prison Ministry works with inmates in the Wisconsin prison system. The organization helps inmates rebuild their lives through programs, mentorship, music, events, and art. The new art exhibit highlights The Pen Project, which gives inmates an outlet to express themselves.

"We created a magazine called the pen project and that magazine gives inmates an opportunity to share their story through art, poetry, their testimony and other written and spoken word," said Jesse Hamble, Director for 513free. Hamble says the magazine gives inmates an outlet to deal with what they’re struggling with. “This is therapy in a lot of cases for most of these guys,” he says.

The exhibit displays hundreds of paintings and drawing. Each piece was created by Wisconsin men and women behind bars. "One thing that we've just really learned is that there's a lot of talent behind bars," said Michael Sandvig, Pen Project Director.

513FREE Directors are excited to not only share the artwork but also share the impact their organization is making. “A lot of times, inmates are forgotten so once they go to prison, we kind of forget about them and so I think one of the biggest impacts I’m seeing is that through The Pen Project specifically, we’re kind of just being able to show some awareness and even just give inmates an opportunity to share their story and that’s huge,” said Sandvig.

Sandvig says this exhibit is giving the inmates and opportunity to show they’ve changed and share their stories. Debra Johnson, Executive Director at the Heyde Center says attendees will be blown away by the artwork. “Sometimes you come in with a preconceived notion that the artists are going to be a little amateur. The artwork is phenomenal and exceptional in a lot of ways,” said Johnson.

A special artist reception and concert by 513free will be held on January 18th at the Heyde Center for the Arts. The official art exhibit opens January 3rd and will run through February 15th.

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