NORFOLK, Va. – A partnership between The Chrysler Art Museum and the Virginia Beach Sheriffs Department, is allowing inmates to show their artistic side in a gallery featuring works that they created.
The gallery, Beyond the Block: An Art Exhibition Created by Inmates at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center, will be on view from Oct. 17 to Nov. 26.
“Beyond the Block is an example of the courtesy and care that public safety officials and law enforcement professionals, especially Virginia Beach Sheriff’s deputies, extend toward inmates. They truly care about their well-being and their futures,” said Chrysler Museum Community Engagement Manager Michael Berlucchi.
Berlucchi pursued the idea for the exhibition after learning that many inmates at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center are gifted artists. Despite security measures that prohibit the use of most art supplies, inmates create impressive works using pens designed especially for those in high-security environments. They incorporate color with candy and other items available to them.
“We decided to name the exhibition Beyond the Block because we want to highlight the notion that this work is on view outside of the jail. This is a rare chance for people who are incarcerated to creatively express themselves beyond the confinement of their detention, and it is an opportunity for the general public to connect with people who are incarcerated,” said Berlucchi.
The Virginia Beach Correctional Center houses nearly 1,400 inmates and is run by the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office. This art program will add to inmate programs that include GED, Substance Abuse, Life Empowerment, Alternative Sentencing and Reentry programs.
“Art can be therapeutic and transformative, both for the viewer and the person who created it. We hope this exhibition will inspire and empower inmates at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center by showcasing their talent and ideas to the public. We also hope that, through this work, Museum audiences will have an opportunity to learn more about people who are incarcerated,” Berlucchi said, adding that inmates use art to express their emotions and share their experiences in a productive way.
About 85 percent of the inmates at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center are held on felony charges and 15 percent on misdemeanor charges. Jails in Virginia are designed to hold offenders who are to be incarcerated for one year or less.
The average length of stay at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center is 23 days for men and 14 days for women. However, due to overcrowding in the state prison system, people in Virginia Beach sentenced to five years or less are likely to serve the entirety of their time in the Virginia Beach Correctional Center.