On Thursday, April 12th, I accompanied math teacher, Matthew Lacques to the Woodside Juvenile Learning Center in San Francisco. Aside from installing a curated collection of inmate artwork, vintage ephemera (including old press photos and souvenirs - all pertaining to the history of Alcatraz) in the school’s large glass enclosed display case, I also had the opportunity to provide four 45 minutes PowerPoint presentations to several separate groups of same sex students of different ages.
The presentations revolved around 18 pieces of artwork installed throughout the Learning Center, as well as the reading of letters by some of the inmate artists themselves who desired to share and impart words of wisdom, maturity and experience to these students. These letters served not only a wake-up call, but a strong admonition and words of encouragement for these students to strive to receive and education, as well as curb their errant ways. One does NOT want to end up in prison for foolish actions! Prison is no fun and Prison limits personal freedoms.
Yes…while a long and challenging day…it was a worthwhile and rewarding day as indicated by Mr. Lacques’ endorsement and testimonial comments below:
“Leslie was no less than amazing getting the PATH artwork up to Woodside Learning Center inside Juvenile Hall in San Francisco. She and a friend carefully hung all the art, and she also created a display of Alcatraz memorabilia that is fascinating. Her presentations to the classes were heartfelt and the kids felt a real connection to both the artists’ stories and their immense talent. We've had lots of folks come up here to talk to the kids about what it's like in prison doing a long sentence, but the letters and poems from the artists themselves made a deep impression on the students, and the connection the art created was real. We look forward to more visits from Leslie- she has some more guest presenters coming".
Shortly followed by:
“Today I had a chance to do a gallery walk of the PATH artists with my younger students at Juvenile Hall in San Francisco. It was so exciting to look at true, fine art with these young folks within our school. They are limited in exposure to artwork and the Alcatraz show has so many different facets-they really had a fantastic time. Also, these artists aren't people from another time, place, or social stratosphere. These artists grew up like our kids - they speak the same language, so our kids can relate to them; thus their hearts are open to their message of hope and redemption. The display case with all the Alcatraz memorabilia was especially interesting to them. One of my students has a hard time sitting still in class and focusing, yet he spent 15 minutes asking questions about the intricate and exquisite detail of Birdman", by Richard C. Jackson. To have this kind of experience for both of us defines what they mean when they say "priceless" in regards to artwork. Thank you Leslie!!!”
Thank you Mr. Lacques, and thank you to everyone at the Learning center, staff and security personnel alike) who made this day possible.
Leslie Lakes, Director