Inmates’ work on display at Artworks

Julie Tilmann looks at a couple of pieces that caught her eye in the “…and I am an Artist” exhibit, located in the Chemical Bank Gallery at Artworks. The pieces, and many others, will be on display until Saturday, Sept. 22. (Pioneer photo/Meghan Gunther-Haas)

BIG RAPIDS — A few more weeks remain for families to view artwork created by inmates of the Michigan corrections system.

Displayed on the walls of the Chemical Bank Gallery at Artworks, located at 106 N. Michigan Ave. in Big Rapids, “…and I am an Artist” will be exhibited through Saturday, Sept. 22.

The exhibit, which opened in early August, is presented by Humanity for Prisoners (HFP), a nonprofit organization which helps Michigan prisoners find answers to questions when they have nowhere else to turn, according to HFP Executive Director Matt Tjapkes.

“This exhibit is a reminder that these are human beings,” he said. “Many of them have all kinds of talents that they might not necessarily have been able to utilize. This brings some humanity and a face to those behind bars.”

Tjapkes said the Grand Haven-based organization did an art show years ago and after discussions with Big Rapids local defense attorney Jim Samuels, who spoke with Artworks’ Executive Director Lynne Scheible and Gallery and Exhibit Coordinator Pat Heeter, the masterpieces were brought to Big Rapids to be displayed.

“It’s almost more of a humanities exhibit than an art exhibit,” Heeter said. “It’s a very emotion-packed exhibit for people reading about what some of the prisoners have to say about the pieces and the subject matter.”

Exhibit visitors can find a sentence or two about the artists underneath or beside drawing, paintings and more, which depict nature, portraits and a variety of other scenes.

“I think this exhibit is touching people in different ways, which is what art is supposed to do,” Scheible said.


Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

Meghan is the education reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review. She can be reached at (231) 592-8382 or by email at

Leave a Reply