Speaking up through art: OCC residents reunite through ‘Something To Say’ exhibition – newsoforange.com | Candle Made Easy

For the second consecutive year, the Margaret Lane Gallery will host an exhibition of artwork created by residents of Orange Correctional Center (OCC) in Hillsborough. This show is the result of a collaboration between the participating men from OCC, Alamance Orange Prison Ministry, EmancipateNC, Eno Friends Meeting, Human Kindness Foundation, Our Children’s Place of Coastal Horizons, Margaret Lane Gallery and Yesterday and Today Frame Shop.

Something To Say brings together a collection of visual and literary art created by people incarcerated at the OCC. The creative outlet served as an opportunity for some of the men at the center, who have become even more isolated from society due to the pandemic.

Members of the Eno Friends Meeting have attempted to maintain a connection to continue accessing “talent, kindness, generosity and wisdom” from people who are incarcerated. This was the initial impetus for the group to begin collecting art supplies for OCC and have an exhibition for the work.

“The media shows people who are in prison a certain way, but volunteers have a very different experience,” said Sally Freeman, an OCC volunteer and member of the Eno Friends Meeting. “One of those people who are so grateful to be human and not to be forgotten. The fact that the community is still thinking about them and that we as individuals are willing to spend our time with them is just so appreciated.”

Some of the residents come right out and thank the volunteers for the art supplies and the time to use them, but that’s not the only way to measure how much the art opportunity is appreciated.

“It’s always good to hear someone say, ‘Thanks, that helps let’s blow off some steam’, but just to see how people are coming in, and then when I come in on a Wednesday morning, the guys will ask what time it is even though I call it at the same time every week,” said Josh LaRoy, who has been OCC’s chaplain for the past two years and is employed by Alamance Orange Prison Ministries. “You know, ‘When are you going to announce?’ Or: ‘Can we come down?’ It just lets me know that they genuinely look forward to any opportunity to get there, get away and do something different.

LaRoe said that although the majority of residents who come to make art do not feel comfortable submitting it for the exhibition, each artwork will be hung in the OCC’s Peace Center, a space paid for by volunteers, and in the Year 2010 built. LaRoe’s office is in the Peace Center, as is a religious library.

While not there as a licensed therapist, LaRoe said he sees great value in what the art work offers to the men at OCC.

“That’s something I don’t shy away from, in terms of my understanding of my work at the facility, everything we offer is meant to be therapeutic,” he said. “If not, then I’m kind of wasting my time.”

This year’s exhibition features 14 artworks and several poems created by residents of the OCC. Each artwork is professionally framed in the Yesterday and Today Frame Shop and hung in the Margaret Lane Gallery. The poems will be read by local poets at the show’s opening reception on July 29.

“The volunteers who go there (to the OCC) are often amazed at the talent and the wonderful spirit of the people who are there,” Freeman said.

For the poetry offerings, the imprisoned men at the OCC were asked to express themselves through their works. Of the five residents whose poems will be read, three are serving life sentences. LaRoe said the subject matter ranges from love poems to phrases dealing with past challenges and problems. The writers were hesitant about whether their poetry was suitable for the show.

“I told them we wanted to hear that,” LaRoe said. “If that’s what you want to say, as long as it’s not explicit and doesn’t name people in jail or anything, it would be fine. I told the other guys that too but they wanted to share it as a poem they wrote for their friend 10 years ago. And that’s okay too.”

The exhibition schedule is as follows: July 27-August 21 (gallery closed August 3-14), opening reception on Friday, July 29, 6pm-9pm during the Last Friday Art Walk; Friends and Family Celebration Saturday, July 30 4:30pm-7:30pm (General public is welcome.)

Hosted at Margaret Lane Gallery, 121 W. Margaret Lane, Hillsborough 27278 919-296-8938, margaretlanegallery.com

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