Art and Prison Life


Artwork by an inmate on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution hangs at Family Reconciliation Center
Artwork by an inmate on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution hangs at Family Reconciliation Center. Photo: Alpha Artistry
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” —Pablo Picasso

For some of the men on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, art is a way to wash away the tedium and sadness of everyday life. And Family Reconciliation Center is proud to share that some of their work is now on display on our property. This artowrk includes stunning, detailed pencil drawings of people, fanciful abstracts, a sculpture made of cardboard and wood, and intriguing multimedia pieces.

How they came to be at Family Reconciliation Center is thanks in large part to the work of local community member, Mary Richards, and her home church, Christ Church Cathedral.

Artwork by an inmate on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution hangs at Family Reconciliation Center
Artwork by an inmate on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution hangs at Family Reconciliation Center. Photo: Alpha Artistry

Shortly before COVID-19 shut down prison visitation and public events in 2020, Vanderbilt held an exhibit of art from men on death row. “It was phenomenal,” says Mary. “I can’t believe some of these artists; a lot of what happens is they’ll meet someone else who is an artist who teaches them things.”

Mary is not an artist herself, but her sister and numerous family members are, and she loves to hang original art in her own home. And she has long-visited Nick, an inmate on death row at RMSI and a talented artist. Thanks to Mary, his drawings of his son and of Rosa Parks are among the works on display at FRC.

So fa,r Mary has brought 10 artworks by prisoners to our property, with more to come. Longtime FRC volunteer Susan Hudson helped Mary place the art.

We are so grateful to Mary, Susan, and Christ Church Cathedral for enabling us to display this work. Next time you're at the Guest House, be sure to take a second look at the artwork on the walls—it just might be by someone another guest is visiting.

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