From 2013 till mid 2016 Brush With the Law effectively worked with prison inmates inside of the Montgomery County Correctional Facility painting murals on the prison walls, and having art classes once a week. It was a very sought after (by inmates to be in the class) and successful program, but once released the ex-offenders had no more access to the program.
Re-Entry programs are necessary because out on the streets is where these people need the most guidance, the most appreciation, and the most cheer-leading for their efforts in trying to regain a place in society. For the most part drug addiction and mental health go hand in hand as does criminal activity and drug addiction. Brush With the Law has now evolved into a community re-entry arts program that aims its focus on community service by seeking out city beautification projects.
TEDx talk | My Brush With the Law | given by Maria Maneos at Arcadia University
Beautification is the process of making visual improvements, which helps to emphasize the necessity of order, dignity, and harmony. Recently released prison inmates, those on probation/parole, Behavioral Health/Drug Rehabilitation, Juvenile Justice, people with community hours to serve, as well as community members who just want to volunteer their time, will work together on these projects and discover what it’s like to work with people from all different walks of life. We recently completed a mural that is displayed on the newly renovated Roll Call Room located inside of the Norristown Police Station. It is dedicated to one of the departments fallen officers Lt. Patty Simons.
This was the first of our projects.
The purpose is to inspire meaningful changes and lasting improvements in the critical social issues affecting the incarcerated and those suffering from addiction and mental health issues. Our belief is that incarceration especially for those afflicted with drug addiction should incorporate rehabilitation. We need policies along with programming to focus on reform and not just punishment. The hidden powers the arts possess transcend all walls and limits and can be found in the most unassuming places.
Brush With the Law will be working on our various projects from different locations in our area, such as the Pennsylvania Institute for Community Living Grove House (aka -PICL), the Norristown Police Station, and the First Presbyterian Church of Ambler. For murals we often use the Polytab Method (a.k.a. “parachute cloth” method). Polytab is a non-woven fabric, the material is very light, lighter than canvas, and can take on the form of the substrate it is being applied to. This fabric that is traditionally used in the garment industry is now widely part of large public mural art projects. The “parachute cloth” method makes it possible for painters to participate in mural making without working directly at the actual location or on the wall where the mural will eventually be. Brush With the Law purchases the fabric and then takes it to the different facilities for the participants to draw and paint the approved image onto it.
The mural or sections of the mural after being primed and painted are then installed like wallpaper on the prepared wall surface. This can be interior or exterior.
Our city beautification projects are an innovative, positive way to bring together two typically viewed opposite groups of people – “law breakers” and police officials – and making amends together for a better community. The work empowers at risk young adults, those on probation, recently released inmates, police officials, and community members to interact, create, and work together.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality… To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. – R. Buckminster Fuller