Prison Art Program Could Yield Big Rewards For Inmates|
Excerpts from an interview with the artist by Jonathan Nicholson
Flamenco guitarist Ronald Radford recalls a performance he gave several years
ago. The crowd was very responsive as he played, making everything more
enjoyable for the artist. As he wrapped up. "the emotional level of
receptivity was so great that no one applauded for about a minute," he said,
recalling the silence.
"Whatever you've experienced here of real value is what you brought in here
with you," he told the captive audience. "The artist is only a mirror to show
what you have in yourself." Afterwards, one of the audience members came up to
him and told him that his performance was the best thing that had happened to
him in about seven years. Radford said the man looked like a wreck, with his
clothes and hair disheveled. "Three years later, playing at a similar venue,
the man approached Radford again after a show. But this time, the man looked
clean and even introduced Radford to his girlfriend. Also, he said he would be
leaving prison in about six weeks, he told Radford.
The audiences at the performances were truly captive, and the venues were
state correctional facilities. And Radford is part of a prison arts program
aimed at showing state inmates a side of themselves they may not have known
"Ninety-four percent of people who go to prison get out," said Barbara Farrer,
executive director of Institutional Programs Inc., a non- profit group that
runs arts programs for about 3,000 of the state's 12,600 inmates. "Everybody
eventually is going to come out. If locking them up and treating them really
badly would bring out better people. I'd be the first one for it. But it
The programs include different types of arts, from painting to stained glass
to Instrumental music to professional writing. IPI also sponsors artists such
as Radford, who give performances and seminars.
"The people in prison are people. Period," said Radford, adding that the arts
help you to realize "the common humanity you share with those people."
Oklahoma Gazette, Oklahoma City, OK By Jonathan Nicholson.