Federal Prison Art Program - Part 1
i wonder if anyone would be interested to know what a federal prison art program is like? I suppose that i might be considered an authority, with 23 years plus under my belt. I imagine that there are some of you that support the concept of positive prison programs.
I likewise assume that there are those who say "fuck'em and feed'em fish heads. Truthfully, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if that's what we are served for lunch on Friday. Hell, it might be an improvement. isn't it notable that the federal bureau
of prisons serves fishy substances on Friday, even though the Catholic church has abandoned the custom? Anyway, Upton Sinclair wrote in "the Jungle"; "Evil deeds like noxious weeds grow well in prison air. It is only what is good in man that wastes and
withers there." Ain't it da truth?! It is painting that has kept me centered on this long dark road. It is one of the few programs that offer an outlet from the tedium and frustration.
Each prison has it's own personality ,so that there are variations from place to place. What drives me crazy is the runaway mission creep. It results from each new supervisor wanting to mark his importance by pissing on the tree, and introducing new and usually ill conceived restrictions. It is frustrating to live in a system where the rules constantly
change, and always for the worse.
So, I'm just going to talk about this little piece of purgatory called FMC Ft. Worth, which happens to host the worst art program of the four prisons that i have had the pleasure of experiencing.
It is 7 AM . I wake up automatically within a minute or two of 7 each day. Coffee, meds, bathroom, after donning my grey sweats(which we buy at commissary at rip off prices) I stumble out of this old Spanish style labyrinth into the new day. I proceed through the rec gate, across the pavement, down a ramp ,past the pool tables, to the hobby craft room.
Hobby craft is in the basement of the building that I live in. It was built in the 1930's, is poorly lit, decrepit, and it smells funky. Now, I'm being nice. The painting area shares about a quarter of an open room with leather craft. there is a constant pounding of mallets. A television is mounted on the wall blasting shows such as Ridiculousness, American Pickers, Pawn Stars ,and an assortment of variety shows on Univision. The inmate clerk, who happens to be the current pet ass-kisser of the staff hobby craft 'boss' has possession of the remote control as a perk. He decides whether to pick or pawn. I keep my headphone on to block out the noise.
The hobby craft 'boss' is rotated every 12 months to other recreational duties and another takes his place. We always hope for one who is not an asshole. none of them ,however, know anything about painting or leathercraft, neither does their boss, the recreation supervisor. Nor do they seem to care as long as floors are waxed and they cover their asses with paperwork.
On the painting side of the dingy room are 10 free standing easels, each shared by 2 painters. The blue linoleum floors are worn grey and rough from 25 years of heavy use. they are beyond help, but waxed never-the less, a fruitless routine. There is a stack of 4 ancient beige file drawers next to each easel, with 2 drawers assigned to hold the supplies purchased by each painter. This 12 square feet of space is my refuge, my asylum. it is my safe harbor in this 25 year long shit storm.