Death row inmates bring beauty back to a scarred world

. July 14, 2015.
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The unofficial patron saint of creative bravery, despite loneliness and loss, Frida Kahlo, once said “I paint flowers so they will not die.” 

Kahlo contracted polio at age six and suffered major injuries in a bus accident at 17, spending much of the rest of her life spent in hospitals. The artist knew something about using art as a force of creation; she painted the ideal world to preserve beauty and overcome the walls the walls which restrained her.

The exhibition in the Perrysburg Municipal Building, The Art of Conviction, channels Kahlo’s belief in the positive power of creative construction. While flowers and careful, detailed landscapes populate the exhibition, the tone is different. Unlike Kahlo’s attempt to preserve natural beauty, the artists in this exhibition are trying to better the world they once hurt. 

Finding the value

Works of over 20 death row inmates are currently on display as an exhibition curated by Perrysburg-based art group, The Main Art-ery, in affiliation with the Compassion group, a nonprofit developed by death row inmates in 2001. The works were framed courtesy of  an anonymous, local donor. 

The Art of Conviction opened July 1, not as a venue for death row inmates to promote their art or to achieve fame, fortune or notoriety, but rather as ground for Compassion’s flower to bloom: a nonprofit fund, providing college scholarships to the family members of murder victims. 

All pieces are for sale, with 100% of the proceeds contributed to Compassion’s scholarship fund. Each piece, from each  inmate's own inspiration, is unprompted by instructions or material requirements. After creating their works, the pieces are mailed by the prisoners to the Compassion group, coordinated by Fred Moor of Toledo’s St. Rose Parish.

“Compassion really regards this effort with death row prisoners as a way to help them live connected and fruitful lives while they are in prison,” said Moor. “That’s what they work on in a variety of different ways, the artwork being one of them.” 

Additional compassion 

Compassion produces a monthly newsletter that “is used as a way of helping those in prison to work a more compassionate and giving life,” said Moor. 

Compassion is also working to publish their second book directed towards youth at juvenile detention centers, written by death row inmates, who use themselves as an example of the importance of making good choices. 

“It is important for people to understand that these are human beings and, despite being convicted of a horrible deed, they are not the sum of the worst thing they have done in their life,” said Moor. “I feel that there is a great capability of human potential and for people to change and do good in their lives, no matter what the situation.”

Through August 15. 8am-4:30pm
Monday-Friday, 8am-6:30pm Tuesday.
Perrysburg Municipal Building, 300 Walnut St., Perrysburg. 419-872-7900.
mainart-ery.com, compassionondeathrow.net