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
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. Having this successful program at the facility, inmates were always hoping to be in the class. After they were released the ex-offenders had no more access to the program.
With the lack of access, Re-Entry programs are very necessary. Out on the streets is where the participants 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; due to similarities, this is also true for drug addiction and criminal activity. Brush With the Law quickly evolved into a community re-entry arts program that aims its focus on community service by seeking out city beautification projects.
Beautification is the process of making visual improvements; therefore helping to emphasize the necessity of order, dignity, and harmony.
Who works on these projects?
- Recently released prison inmates
- Those on probation/parole
- People with behavioral health problems or in drug rehabilitation
- Juvenile justice
- People with community hours to serve
- Community members wanting to volunteer their time
Through this program all of our participants work creatively together on projects. They also are able to discover what it’s like to work with people from all walks of life.
Roll Call Room, Norristown Police Station
For one of our first projects, we completed a mural that is displayed on the newly renovated Roll Call Room located inside of the Norristown Police Station. This mural is a dedication to one of the departments fallen officers, Lt. Patty Simons.
The purpose behind this program is to inspire meaningful changes and lasting improvements in critical social issues. Those of which that affect 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, not only punishment. The hidden powers the arts possess transcend all walls and limits. We believe that participants find these in the most unassuming places.
For murals we often use the Polytab Method (a.k.a. “parachute cloth” method). Polytab is a non-woven fabric with very light material. Thus leading to this lighter-than-canvas material taking on the form of the substrate it is being applied to. Traditionally used in the garment industry, this fabric is now widely used in large public mural art projects.
The “parachute cloth” method makes it possible for painters to participate in the creation of murals. This makes it possible for them not having to work directly at the actual location of the mural. This allows us to take the fabric to various facilities where the participants draw and paint the approved image.
These murals can be created on the interior or exterior of buildings. After being primed and painted, the mural—or sections of the mural—are finally installed like wallpaper on the prepared wall surface.
Our city beautification projects are an innovative, positive way to bring together two typically opposing groups of people. While “law breakers” and police officials work together in this program, they also make amends for a better community.
All of the participants are empowered to interact, create, and work alongside one another. Whether they are at-risk young adults, on probation, and recently released inmates or police officials and community members, they are each doing uplifting work.