In Memory of PATH Artist - Alfredo Arredondo

Sadly, this morning I discovered (through another inmate at Calipatria, CA State Prison) that one of the participating PATH artists had just passed away at the young age of 55. 

I had been corresponding fairly regularly with Alfredo Raigosa Arredondo since November 2014 when he had eagerly responded to a “Call to Incarcerated Artists” that I had put out via a radio interview broadcast.  It was aired on "SISTA"S PLACE" KHSU90.5 (Sharon Fennell's groovy radio program now defunct) from Humboldt State University, and one which he was able to pull in while incarcerated at Pelican Bay State Prison in nearby Crescent City, CA.

The last letter I received from Alfredo was dated July 4th, 2019.  He wrote to tell me that his 84 year old Mom had a mild stroke over this past Memorial Day weekend, and that he wished that he could be out of prison so he could help take care of her.  Ironically, he wrote: “I’m dreading the day she goes with our good Lord , but it’s part of living...we all have to go sometime”.  “I can’t tell her ‘Thank You!’ for the 55 years she has always been a part of my life.  And, I appreciate everything she’s done for me.  Well, I’m looking forward on crossing paths again with my little Mom”. 

Alfredo mentioned that he had received the photos and postcard I had mailed him from my March trip to Paris, France.  He wrote that was in the process of finishing up a Western Mexican’s Black Breasted Mag-Pie  drawing for PATH’s  "Birds, Bees, Butterflies and Flowers" exhibit scheduled for August 2020.

Alfredo had been out of S.H.U. (Segregated Housing Unit) since Oct 2015 and as all his letters to me attest, had been busy accruing educational certificates and most recently passed his G.E.D. exam on the very first try!  

He proudly shared that he was planning on taking two courses this very month of August: one in Counseling Strategies for College Success and a Political Science course on the American Government.  He had previously enrolled into Coastline College for this upcoming Fall Season which is to start August 26th. Apart from the courses outlined above, Alfredo was looking forward to taking Psychology Child Growth and Development, as well as Business Personal Finance.

Alfredo had dreams of becoming a General Contractor and mentor upon being released from prison.  He even had a Parole Board Hearing date scheduled for 2023, which again and most sadly, he will never have the chance to attend.

Per his response to several questions on the “FUTURE ID’S OF ALCATRAZ” questionnaire, Alfredo shared that his passion was to help others. Pleasing others was his reward. Three things he loved to do as a child were:  Swimming at the public swimming pool; target practice with his BB gun from the tree house; and raising pigeons and chickens. 

God bless you, mi amigo en arte.  May you rest in peace. 

Leslie Lakes, Director

Pics:

Alfredo's Self Portrait

Photo of his daughter and granddaughter

Excerpt from a letter he wrote me.

PRISON ART POTPOURRI AT PUBLIC DEFENDERS’ OFFICE

Yesterday, I installed a new (one of many rotating quarterly inmate art exhibits) within the lobby of the Marin County Public Defenders’ office (Marin Civic Center in San Rafael, CA).  This time, it’s an interesting potpourri of prison artwork including a panoply of panos art (art created on handkerchiefs and/or fabric such as Pete Zepeda’s XXLG T-Shirts). 

Most of the artwork is available for purchase including Pete’s A BREED RESOLUTE - an incredibly detailed blue pen drawing on a man’s XXLG white T-Shirt. 50% of funds from the sale of this art will directly benefit the Cover Your K-9 Fundwhich provides safety equipment and medical care for police and sheriff's dogs, and other working K-9 teams.  

If feasible, check out the art in person: 

3501 Civic Center Dr # 139, San Rafael, CA

Hours: Monday thru Friday8am-Noon/1pm-4:30pm

 

Images:

MUHHAMAD ALI by Jeremy J. Hammill 

ALL AMERICAN by Wesley Moosman 

WORLD OF PARADISE by Michael Antonio Gonzales (CA) 

STANDING BULL by Young Blood Frank McCray 

A LOVE LETTER by Benevidez (Panos Art) 

KOLORFUL KOI by W. Rey (Panos Art) 

CALL TO THE WILD by Pete Zarogoza (Panos Art) 

A BREED RESOLUTE by Pete Zarogoza (Panos Art)

LARGE MARILYN by Anonymous Inmate Artist 

WOLF DREAMING OF RABBITS by R. Williams, III (Panos Art)  

THREE HORSES by Anonymous Inmate Artist 

FRIDA KAHLO by Anthony (Sonny) Ramirez (SQSP, CA)

THE POWER OF COMFORT by Jeremy J. Hammill 

SEVEN SINS by Anonymous Inmate Artist

 

 

 

 

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YOGA FOR ADDICTION RECOVERY 

I was recently approached by a staff person at the Advanced Recovery Systems at DrugRehab.com about our yoga related PATH blog posted this past March 18, 2019. They shared with me this really terrific and insightful article written by their content writer, Matt Gonzales’  on the subject: “Yoga For Addiction Recovery”.  I was so impressed that I simply had to share it with my PATH audience due to its relevance.

According to the Center for Prison Health and Human Rights, “Approximately half of prison and jail inmates meet DSM-IV criteria for substance abuse or dependence, and significant percentages of state and federal prisoners committed the act they are incarcerated for while under the influence of drugs. Data from a national study in five major American cities shows that at the time of arrest, 63% to 83% of arrestees had drugs in their system.”

And, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Drugs and Crime Facts: Drug Use and Crime.... In 2004, 17% of state prisoners and 18% of federal inmates said they committed their current offense to obtain moneyfor drugs.

So, you may ask...what does this have to do with Yoga? Yoga is a very powerful tool and mindfulness activity for addiction recovery. I encourage you to read Mr. Gonzales’ article.

Thank you and blessings!

Leslie Lakes, Director


Artwork by Brett Crawford
Sukhasana (Easy Pose) with quote:

“When I do yoga I feel like I am surrounded by this field of positive energy and protected from the negative vibes of prison life”, - Artist, Brett Crawford

Depiction of the seven chakras (from bottom up): Root (gold cube), Vital Force (silver crescent), Power (red inverted diamond), Heart (blue pointed star), Communication (black onyx egg), Third Eye (white winged globe) and Crown Chakra (red rose). 

Images of artwork are Courtesy of James Fox, Prison Yoga Project.




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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Wishing all fathers a very  “HAPPY FATHER’S DAY”!  We appreciate you! 

Blessings, 

Leslie Lakes, Director

Artwork: Graphite Drawing by Lori Flor

(Drawing was created on the front of an orange business envelope and scalloped to create a softened affect)

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ALCATRAZ HEADS EAST! 

If you recall PATH’s “Art Escape At Alcatraz” that took place two years ago (this May) in the Band Practice Room of the formidable former Federal Penitentiary located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, you’ll be surprised to know that twenty pieces from the original forty three were selected to be installed at theAlcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, TN!  Yessiree!  I’m in the process of packing them up now for early June shipment across country.

The inmate artwork will be on public display from August 1st 2019 through May 31st, 2020.   Along with the art, PATH is also shipping some really fun and interesting authentic, vintage Alcatraz related souvenirs and ephemera.   So, if you, or anyone you know who will be in that Tennessee neck of the woods, please tell them about the exhibit.

Apart from their permanent collection, the Alcatraz East Crime Museum has two new temporary exhibits: “Passion For Life: Nicole Brown Simpson”, which commemorates the life and 25th anniversary of the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson (and Ronald Goldberg);  and the other, a limited display marking the 30thAnniversary of Ted Bundy’s Execution.

 Samples of artwork include:

"Postal Pelican" by Marlon Melendez

"Pelican Passage" by Omar Avila

"Women of Alcatraz" by Mark A.Stanley-Bey 

"George deVincenzi" by Mark A. Wright

(Note: This graphite drawing was autographed by Mr. deVincenzi himself!)

"Bill Baker" portrait by Jeremy J. Hammill

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HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

A mother’s unconditional love comes in many shapes, sizes and species. God bless mothers of all kinds all around the world! 

Leslie Lakes, Director 

______________________

Artwork Description:

Greater One Horned Indian Rhinoceros Mama and Baby / Coffee Painting by Jeremy J. Hammill; FL

4/4/15

Baby Elephant whose Mother was killed by poachers rests at a Nairobi Nursery and the National Park System in Gabon, Africa / Coffee painting by Jeremy J. Hammill; FL

4/5/15

Zakouma Park’s “Gift”: A welcome sight returns to Zakouma African Park / A coffee painting by Jeremy J. Hammill; FL

3/16/16

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YOGA: A Path For Healing and Recovery in Prisons

I was delightfully surprised when I recently found out that one of the inmate artists who has been participating in PATH art projects  - Mr. Benjamin Ballard -  had illustrated all the yoga poses in a 103 page book titled YOGA: A Path For Healing and Recovery published by the Prison Yoga Project, and made possible by the Give Back Yoga Foundation’s financial support for its printing and national distribution. So far 28,000 copies of his book have been sent free of charge to men and women incarcerated in U.S. prisons who have requested it.

You may ask, “Why yoga in prison?”.   Good question! According to PYP’s Founder, James Fox, MA:

 “Prison is a breeding ground for mental, emotional and physical distress.  Experiences of anxiety, depression, fear, distrust, agitation, hopelessness, grief and violence can be greatly increased under incarcerated conditions". [Page2 ]

 "These (yoga) practices have proven effective in helping prisoners to gain insight into unconscious patterns of thinking and compulsive behavior.  They have also greatly helped in improving their overall quality of life  - mentally, emotionally and physically”. [ Page 1]

Hence, the Prison Yoga Project supports incarcerated people with trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness practices to promote rehabilitation, reduce recidivism, and improve public safety.

Mr. Fox began teaching yoga and meditation to prisoners at San Quentin Prison in 2002 and has since led practices and inspired the establishment of yoga programs in prisons and jails across the U.S. and internationally. He has trained thousands of teachers who have replicated PYP’s methodology in correctional facilities in 28 states, India, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, the U.K. and The Netherlands. Now that’s mighty impressive!

 An inmate may request a free copy simply by writing to: The Prison Yoga Project, P.O. Box 415, Bolinas, CA 94924

Inmates must provide not only their full name and correctional facility address, but also their assigned prison number in order to successfully receive a free copy.

While The Prison Yoga Project has specially trained teachers who are leading classes in hundreds of prisons and jails around the world every week, there are still many prisoners who don’t have access to these tools for self-rehabilitation. I fully acknowledge and support this non-profit and the invaluable work that they are doing! So, if you feel so inclined to also help them grow their reach and important impact, you may send them a donation HERE.

 Blessings,

Leslie Lakes, PATH Director


 Photos courtesy of Prison Yoga Project

Photos of Ben Ballard engaged in yoga postures

Book Cover and Back artwork by Brett Crawford

Illustrations by Ben Ballard; CA

Coffee Painting by inmate artist, Jeremy J. Hammill; FL

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FUTURE IDS AT ALCATRAZ: Envisioning a Future For Self

Saturday February 16th initially threatened to rain, but with luck, aside from a brief shower, it remained fairly sunny and dry for my excursion across the San Francisco Bay to the Island of Alcatraz.  I took the 11am ferry from Pier 33 and once on the Alcatraz side, walked the steep road up to the New Industries Building where the current “FUTURE IDS AT ALCATRAZ” exhibit is installed.

Future IDs at Alcatraz is a yearlong project, exhibition, and series of monthly public programs hosted by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

The installation features ID-inspired artworks created by incarcerated individuals as they conceive and develop a vision for a future self.

 “CREATE A FUTURE ID

For a dream job,

a role in society, or

A continuing role with family

such as father or mother”.

 It’s a brilliant visual art conception and a stark contrast to prison-issued IDs as these artworks represent individual stories of transformation. The exhibit was curated and installed by artist and Arizona State University art professor, Gregory Sale.

I met Mr. Sale last year and was delighted (and honored) to be invited to collaborate in part by providing artwork created by some of the incarcerated artists who regularly participate in PATH art related projects. One PATH artist in particular is Cuong (Mike) Tran whose work can be seen in the show.  

This particular project is supported in part by grants from Creative Capital Foundation, SPArt (social practice art), and the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts, Arizona State University. It was developed during artist residencies at Montalvo Arts Center, Headlands Center for the Arts, and The Bunny House.

If you get a chance to go out to the island, I strongly recommend that you take in this exhibit.  Aside from the exhibit, the New Industries Building is also set up as an art workshop studio for visitors to the Island.  So, get your art on, and enjoy!

Blessings,

Leslie Lakes, Dir. 


Pics:

Signage for exhibit 


Road leading up to New Industries Building


Art by Cuong Tran

Several images of art display

Gregory Sale (L) checking off event list

John Sale (Gregory's brother) and Leslie Lakes

Art Venue Space in New Industries Building

View of San Francisco Bay from Alcatraz

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LIFE IS NOT OVER: Wisdom and Light From SQ Death Row

LIFE IS NOT OVER: Words of Wisdom and a Bright Light From San Quentin Death Row

 I first met Tio MacDonald when he initially expressed interest in attending the opening reception for “UNCHAINED ARTISTS” – a collaborative art exhibit between between PATH and ARtReach where original  artwork by incarcerated artists (including San Quentin death row artists) was  displayed at the Bank of Marin in Mill Valley.

Tio MacDonald is the Chief Editor of the “East Oakland Times, LLC” – a multi-media publication based in the SF Bay Area.  EOT projects include quarterly print publication for free distribution on the streets of East Oakland; Publication of original inmate art and books; MY CRIME SERIES (books written on inmates by inmates – available for purchase via Amazon in paperback, kindle and/or audio book. So, check it out!

Stories presented in the THE FIRST OFFENSE: My True Crime Stories are often raw, and while you may not agree with an individual inmate’s attitude or position, or prior actions in crime that led to incarceration, the five books of the MY CRIME Series (written on an inmate, by an inmate) “…propose to candidly communicate the upbringing, life experience and motivations of the incarcerated”.  “They are intended to present an opportunity for open dialog with the public regarding crime and punishment”.

Aside from the above journalistic projects, EOT delivers podcasts from California’s condemned row. One such podcast caught my attention.  It features a man by the name of “Rual” who is on San Quentin’s death row.  It’s just a tad over 27 minutes in length; interesting, inspirational and positive. “Rual” discusses how life as a condemned inmate at San Quentin brought about a conversion of thought and mind and action and spirit, and how life goes on in prison whether in the main line or on death row and how and why inmates have a choice to not live statically.

“As a society, we do not know ourselves enough to have the right answers on justice. The MY CRIME series grants you the opportunity to sit and listen to the unknown felon and learn, as if you were on the bottom bunk, about your neighbor and what brought him or her to getting locked up”. – Tio MacDonald

Myself, having served as a Petit Juror on numerous occasions, as well as a Grand Juror for a Newark, NJ court of law in the 2000’s, I can personally attest to the fallibility of the justice system.  I also personally know people who were incarcerated for many long years who were innocent, and only until proven innocent with the help of organizations such as THE INNOCENCE PROJECT and through DNA testing, that they were released and exonerated. Such is the case of Keith A. Harward who will be featured on a Netflix documentary this Fall.

Enjoy and be blessed!

Leslie Lakes, Director

Photos:

 Front and back cover of The Five Crime Books

Tio MacDonald (L) and “Rual” (R)  Spring 2018 at San Quentin State Prison

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GUALALA ART EXHIBIT A MAJOR SUCCESS!

Returned to Mill Valley this past Saturday evening, January 26th, from my trip up the coast to the Gualala Arts Center where the "Unchained Artists: Portraits and Dreams" exhibit took place. 

First, I’d like to thank the Gualala Arts Center for hosting the show, to Wendy Bailey for her vision and unfailing hard work; to Ken Bailey Grading and Underground whose generous underwriting made this exhibit possible.  Also, special thanks goes out to Heidi Endemann and Roberta Tewes of the Stewart-Kummer Gallery for donating mat board for the art.

The exhibit was a MAJOR success...not just in sales, but for the fact that people unanimously loved the show. Numerous comments written in the Guest Sign-In book that it was one of the best art shows that they've seen in the Burnett Gallery in years!   It’s my experience that most visitors to opening art receptions attend to socialize, drink wine and eat food that's set out. But, with this recent inmate art exhibit, folks were held fascinated; grouped around and staring at the artwork to discuss the different pieces on display.   The show opened peoples' minds and hearts to the plight of inmates and inmate artists that they were previously unaware of before. So, in that sense, I consider it a major success.

Comments include but not limited to:

"Authentic, fearless and beautiful art for the soul.  Everyone is valuable and shining”.

“Third or 4th time seeing this show – most creative show I’ve seen at GAC.”

“Powerful, creative expression!  Thank you.  Freedom manifested thru art!

“Some of the finest artwork we have seen – wonderful!  Love the different mediums”

“(The) human spirit cannot be dominated”

“Impressive, especially given the conditions, lack of materials and environment of having prison be your studio.”

Photos: Courtesy of Leslie Lakes

4th image is of Wendy Bailey, curatror/installer of this show.

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INSIDE INSIGHTS at MARIN CENTER

As Founder and Director of PATH, I'm the first to share that PATH is not the only game in town that helps provide a creative outlet and visual artistic expression to those who are incarcerated.  Between January 10th - March 28th, The MARIN CENTER'S Bartolini Gallery; 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael, CA will be featuring INSIDE INSIGHTS: San Quentin Arts in Corrections.   This special exhibit will showcase many works, including 25 original paintings, prints and sculptures created by San Quentin State Prison inmates who participate in the Arts in Corrections (AIC) program and specifically under the auspices of the William James Association’s “Prison Arts Project”, which was started in 1977.    

I cannot more wholeheartedly agree with the following:

"Arts in Corrections is based on the belief that when institutionalized individuals participate in the arts their self-esteem and outlook on the world is significantly affected".   And positively so!  

One of the artists who I routinely communicate with and visit at San Quentin is Mark Stanley-Bey who created ORISA’S RISING (Acrylic and Ink).   In the series of images provided for your viewing pleasure, I also included information about this piece. What the art title card does not mention is that it took Mr. Stanley-Bey no less than 1000 hours and three months plus to create this piece!  The detail in this painting is simply crazy. A must see!

Other noteworthy pieces of art (but certainly not exclusively) include a detail from Lumumba’s SHE’S ALREADY BLESSED (oil); Ned Axthelm’s SUNK (acrylic); Lamis Comundoiwalla’s CANDICE (acrylic); Scott McKinstry’s SATYR (acrylic and Mixed Media); Jeffrey Isom’s STILL LIFE (Oil); and Bruce Fowler’s OF FIELDS AND RUST (acrylic).                           

 Leslie Lakes, PATH Director


Images:

Inside Insights

Orisa's Rising

Orisa's Rising Title Card

Leslie and Stan-Bey at San Quentin

Bartolini GalleryShe's Already Blessed (cropped detail)

Sunk 

Candice

Satyr

Still Life

Of Fields and Rust

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WHEN CAT IS ART SPELLED RIGHT!

While perusing art books on the shelves of the Mill Valley Public Library, I happened to  come across a book titled CAT IS ART SPELLED WRONG – a compilation of fascinating essays published by Coffee House  Press.  The playful title and fun cover graphic design caught my eye! It’s a charming book and anyone who is a cat lover should surely add this book to their collection. 

In any case, it stirred me to share with you a variety of cat related paintings and drawings created by the talented artists I work with.  

So, here they are!  

Enjoy!

Leslie Lakes, Director


PICS (in order):

Happiness is a Cat by Garcia (CA)

We Called Her Boogie by Robert Mendoza (CA)

Kissing Cats by Christopher Avitea (CA)

Simone by Manuel R. Sanchez (CA)

Rex by Coleman Pannell (KS)

Surrealist Collage by Jesse Inman (CO)

Scaredy Cat by Randy Schill (WI)

Cuddle Buddy by Jeremy J. Hamill (FL)

Cat Painting by Doug Hanna, (MI)

Cat and Fish (Anonymous)

Cats Leave Paw Prints by Gilbert Loza (CA)

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

May this New Year 2019 bring you good health, sweet peace and much joy!

To herald the New Year artistically, PATH has collaborated with art curator and installer - Wendy Reiswig Bailey, as well as the GUALALA ARTS CENTER in Gualala, CA (Mendocino County) for a special exhibit titled UNCHAINED ART: Portraits and Dreams. In the event you plan to travel up that way, make sure to stop at see the show. I promise you, you won't be disappointed.  Aside from framed original paintings and drawings, there will also be a collection of fabulous 3-dimensional pieces, including a variety of handcrafted items for sale.

Opening Reception is Friday January 4th from 5pm-7pm (I'll be there!) and the exhibit will run thru Sunday, January 27th in the Burnett Gallery.

Blessings, and as always, THANK YOU for your interest and support!

Leslie Lakes, Director


Pics: 

Front of Art Post Card: Doing Time Together by Bradley Cain (FL)

Back of Art Post Card: Sweet Reconciliation by Andres Cabrera-Cabrera, Jr. (OR)

Unchained Art: Portraits and Dreams Poster

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CHRISTMAS SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND WELL!

On Wednesday morning, December 12th, I set off on foot from Mill Valley, CA with four large plastic bags each filled to the brim containing  a total of 50  brand new teddy bears and other sweet and cuddly, adorable animal plushies.  I was headed to San Francisco and had to take two buses to get there. The first bust left several long blocks from my home in the direction of Marin City where I took a corresponding bus to San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.  Initially the bus driver at Marin City said “Ma’am we can’t let you on the bus with all those bags” (he must have thought I was an indigent bag lady), but I adamantly insisted that I had no recourse but to get on the bus so I could deliver these toys to City Team, even if I had to pay extra fare for an additional seat.  He let me on.

I eventually made my way to the City Team’s office location at 164  6th Street off of Mission.  Delivered these plushies just in time for the staff and volunteers to distribute and hand out to children in homeless shelters for this Christmas season. The stuffed animals were purchased from the Bearington companywith monies that PATH raised through the incredibly generous donations of artwork and handcrafted items that incarcerated artists sent us for this purpose.

And, this coming Saturday, December 22nd, I will be returning to City Team to join their staff and volunteers as they hand out clothing, new blankets, food and toys.  I personally will be providing foot washing and foot massage for anyone who happens to walk into their facility who requests it.  

For more information about City Team and all the great work they do: www.cityteam.org

Blessings,

Leslie Lakes, Director


Photos: 

Christophe Nussbaumer, Leslie Lakes, Ashley Ross, Eric, Christophe, Leslie and Ashley

Signs 



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OWL FASCINATION

Why are people so fascinated by owls?  Is it because by their very persona and forward-facing eyes that these iconic birds of mystery closely resemble human beings the most?  Or, is it due to our own perception of their sense of all-knowing and a feeling of deep wisdom? For centuries, owls have fascinated people and have been depicted in art, poetry literature and mythology.

Some Interesting Owl Facts:

Owls possess large, forward-facing eyes and ear-holes, a sharp hawk-like beak and flat face (a facial disc around each eye and a conspicuous circle of feathers,  The stereoscopic nature of the owl's forward-facing eyes and binocular vision permits the greater sense of depth perception necessary for low-light hunting.

Owls can rotate their heads and necks as much as 270°. Unlike humans that have 7 neck vertebrae, owls have 14 neck vertebrae which makes their necks more flexible.  But, what is so unique about their necks is that they also have adaptations to their circulatory systems, permitting rotation without cutting off blood to the brain.  Birds (including owls) are the only vertebrates to have a fused collarbone (the furcula or wishbone) or a keeled sternum or breastbone.

There are a total of 216 species of owls, 18 of which belong to the Barn Owl family and 198 to the typical owl family (i.e., Strigidae).

In the USA, there are at least 19 species of owls and 16 types of these owls have been seen in Canada. 

Enjoy!

Blessings,

Leslie Lakes, Director


Art Credits in Order of Appearance:

Mama and Baby Owls by David M. Shaw, Sr. (CA); Black Pen 
Owl by Rudy Guerrero (CA) ; Colored Pastels
Snowy White Owl by Anthony J. Rojas (aka Tono) Colored Pens
Short Earred Owl by Manuel R. Sanchez (CA); Colored Pencils
Owl by Manuel R. Sanchez (CA) ; Colored Pencils
Owl by John Vantielen (OH); Colored Pencils on paper
Owl on Handkerchief by Roger (FL) Black pen
Owl on Handkerchief by Roger Edwards (FL); Black pen
Great Grey Owl by Robert Ramirez (CA); Colored Pastels
Owl by Josiah Barra (CA); Colored Pencils




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JUST CLOWNING AROUND

Apart from the visual arts in prison settings, on occasion there will be theatrical workshops led by various groups and organizations.The one that I want to share with you is from a recent workshop led by The Actors' Gang, a professional theater company based in Culver City, CA that teaches in prisons as part of their community service. Actors' Gang members shown here are Jeremie Loncka, Hannah Chodos, Cady Zuckerman, and Kathryn Carner.This particular theatrical workshop took place at High Desert State Prison this past October 2018.

The class is part of Arts in Corrections; funding for these photographs was provided by the California Arts Council.

The photos primarily feature a wonderful inmate artist and friend of mine – Mr. Rogelio Reyes.  I first became acquainted with Rogelio in the beginning of 2006 when I bid on and won a drawing that he had created and submitted to NYC’s Fortune Society’s Fifth Annual Inmate Art Auction in 2005.

At that time, when I started to correspond with Rogelio to initially let him know how very much I appreciated his artwork.  And we’ve been writing to one another ever since! When I finally relocated to Northern California from New Jersey in 2010, I was able for the first time to make arrangements to visit Rogelio when he was still incarcerated in SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison Crescent City, CA.  Currently, Rogelio is situated at High Desert State Prison, CA and is fortunately (thank God!), no longer in SHU. 

Aside from being an excellent artist, Rogelio has seemed to have found a new talent and niche for the art of clowning!  He is the clown with the bright red nose and golf caddy cap.  Check out the photos (all taken by professional photographer, Peter Merts) and courtesy of the California Arts Council.  What joy and fun these men had!  I truly wish I could have been there!

Blessings,

Leslie Lakes, Director

 —-

 (Art Credit: Black and Red Pen Drawing by Rogelio Reyes titled Presa Drive)


 

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CARE NOT CAGES: A People’s Guide to Healing

On a mild sunny, Saturday afternoon October 20th, I drove across the Richmond Bridge to Oakland to attend a special cultural event: CARE NOT CAGES - a collaboration between Prison Renaissance and Decarcerate Alameda County.  Took the elevator from the inside courtyard lobby at 2633 Telegraph Avenue to the third floor to Suite 315, which opened up to a large high ceiling room with lots of light. After checking in at the formal registration desk up front, and picking up my copy of A PEOPLE’S GUIDE TO HEALING , I stopped by the coffee station (the organizers had set up a table with a beautiful spread of refreshments and nibbles, I was quite impressed) and took my seat up front.  

CARE NOT CAGES: A People’s Guide to Healing is a zine that features the multi-faceted and talented works  (art, poetry, spoken word, essays, etc.) of inmates regarding their personal and collective struggles (cages); healing (care); resilience and resistance; learning, expression and disciplines, as well as their respective families, inside prison communities and connection to the outside world.

Even though I arrived early, people were quickly spilling into the room and filling seats until there was left standing room only.   Prison Renaissance is a non-profit organization that uses art, media and technology to connect incarcerated people to the communities that need them.  Decarcerate Alameda County is an Oakland based coalition of organizers and community members who joined to fight the construction of a new “mental health” unit at Santa Rita jail.

What took place from 1:30pm-4pm was absolutely wonderful!  A finely tuned orchestration of timely call-ins by inmates (located in different facilities) who participated in this creative zine project.    Remotely, yet in real time, they were able to talk about their experiences, share their creative artistic and/or literary works and ask questions of the audience.  Conversely, the audience was able to collectively or individually respond to and ask questions of these same inmates via a mic hooked up to the phone.  While this was taking place, a large screen up front would project images of the inmate(s) and/or play a video of their work(s).   The treat and surprise for me was to meet some of the very same inmates I knew from my volunteer days at San Quentin who had since been released.    

Care Not Cages is a (quote) …living, loving bridge.  A bridge to connect people over walls and across time...to amplify so we can engage and heal together.

 

 Images:

Zine publication (drawing by Khalifah Christopher Christenson; San Quentin, CA); building lobby; event registration; Eddie Herena (photographer); audience; Emile DeWeaver (videographer); Lemar MaverickHarrison; Maverick and Emile; Arts & Culture section of EAST BAY EXPRESS featuring Emile DeWeaver and Rahsaan Thomas from San Quentin; audience members with background artwork by James R. Metters, Jr.; participating audience. Maverick and Emily Harris from the Ella Baker Center


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ANIMAL HOUSE 


This past Monday afternoon, with the help of Marin Civic Center custodian, Tom and a lovely High School intern - Kelsey Mazariegos – we installed a new inmate art exhibit within the Public Defenders’ office at the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, CA.

I affectionately titled this new exhibit ANIMAL HOUSE, which comprises 16 pieces of framed original artwork in various styles and mediums by incarcerated artists from around the country.  Art includes cats (large and small, domestic and wild); dogs, bears, fish and birds.  The show will be up for public viewing purposes for the next three months (thru the end of January 2019).

For more information, please feel free to contact PATH Director, Leslie Lakes at: prisonartstouchinghearts@gmail.com

My appreciation goes out to both Jose H. Varela (Public Defender) and Carol Farrer (Deputy Public Defender) for making these rotating exhibits possible.

Thank you and enjoy!

Blessings,

Leslie Lakes, Director

Art credits:  Bear and butterfly black ink drawing by Manuel R. Sanchez (CA); Green Leopard and Pitt Bull Buddies by Pete Zarogoza, (UT); Mama owl and baby owls in nest ink drawing by David. M. Shaw (CA); Black Labrador acrylic painting on canvas by Ben Howard (PA); Leopard ink drawing by Brad Hart (CA); Wood Duck colored pencil drawing by Christopher Avitea (CA); Parrots colored pencil drawing by Gilbert Loza (CA); Golden Retriever drawing by Ernie Garcia (formerly incarcerated CA); Chihuahua in Tea Cup ink drawing by Brad Hart (CA); Wolves painting on board by James E. Atomancyzk (TX); Rex domestic cat drawing by Coleman Pannell (formerly incarcerated in KS); Presa Dogs drawings by Rogelio Reyes (CA); Panda acrylic painting on board by Joseph Miller (PA).   

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ELKS LODGE EVENING: TEDDY BEAR AND UKULELE EVENT

On 9/14, five days following the 9/9/18 Teddy Bear ‘Tea Party’ fundraiser at the Book Passage, I drove over to the Elks Lodge in San Rafael with my car laden down and packed to the brim with all things teddy bear related to set up for a fun family evening of youth craft activities, food and ukulele music.  

The ELKS are wonderful in that they fully support their members' community and charitable interests through such actions as providing a venue, volunteers or funds in support of their good causes.

Kids were invited to bring their own teddies to bounce around with in the large Bouncy Castle that was set up under the wedding arbor in their outdoor garden.  It remained a beautiful warm sunny day all day, which lent for an equally lovely evening for this event.

Aside from fabulous teddy bear art and an array of craft items (including handcrafted collectible teddies) made and donated by incarcerated artists specifically for this event, there were many other teddy bear items ranging from vintage mechanical wind up teddies, to jewelry, lamps, blankets, books, cookie jars, tea sets, embroidered linens, Christmas tree ornaments, and so forth.    

Professional caricaturist, Pete McDonnell was also on hand to provide his uncanny gift of caricature drawings…and as you can see, Pete sure nailed the images!  

My niece, Hannah and her friend, Tabby (both sophomore High School students) offered to provide teddy bear face painting, for the little ones. A large bouquet of multi-colored polka dot balloons by Balloons by Design, helped lend an even more festive ambiance.  

Aside from the yummy family dinners sold by the Elks Lodge, receipts from sales of teddy bear items went directly to PATH so that PATH can purchase brand new teddies and assorted other plushies to give out to children of incarcerated parents during the end of the year seasonal holidays. 

I’d like to personally thank the Elks Lodge and their volunteers, as well as everyone else who helped PATH make it a special and rewarding event. 

If you wish to make a donation to PATH so we can continue this program, please feel free to do so HERE.

Thank you and God bless!

Leslie Lakes, Director/Founder

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RAISING TEDDIES FOR CHILDREN OF INCARCERATED PARENTS

On a super sunny, Sunday September 9th afternoon, PATH (in collaboration with both Kids Cooking For Life and CANDO Clemency Teddy Bear Program) presented an engaging and charming ‘Teddy Bear Tea Party’ fundraising event.  The event fell on none other than National Teddy Bear Day and was hosted by the Corte Madera Book Passage.  Young children (accompanied by their parents), came out for lots of eats and treats and fun hands-on activities.   A festive and colorful polka dot balloon bouquet was donated by Balloons by Design.   And, each child who attended the event received a goody bag which comprised of a teddy bear “EAT THE RAINBOW” (copyrighted 2018) coloring book package (created especially for this occasion) complete with crayons, teddy stickers, temporary teddy tattoos; teddy bubble wands, a Yumm Earth lollipop and a grain free snack bar.

One of the main attractions at this event was face painting services by Budderball the Clown.  Budderball did an amazing job!

After ice cream was served, the little ones marched to the teddy bear beat led by Book Passage storyteller, Clare Doornbos for teddy tales.

A teddy themed gift basket was raffled off and featured a very special book by internationally renowned, artist/photographer, William Wegman.  On my personal request, Mr. Wegman donated his book – BEING HUMAN.  Mr. Wegman not only signed, but also created a super sweet, original teddy and dog friend drawing on the inside page.  

The main purpose of this event was to raise funds to (1) purchase brand new teddy bears (and other cuddly stuffed animals) to hand out to children of incarcerated parents at the end of this year and future seasonal holidays and, (2) help benefit Kids Cooking For Life non-profit in Marin County, CA.

I’d like to personally thank everyone who helped me put this event together…who donated their time and services to make it a special and rewarding event. 

If you wish to make a donation to PATH so we can continue this program, please feel free to do so HERE.

Thank you and God bless!

Leslie Lakes, Director/Founder 

Note: Artwork for EAT THE RAINBOW coloring book by professional artist Jose Velasquez (Austin, TX)

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