Prison art arrives at a Crossroads

Artwork from prisoners displayed in a new gallery opened at the Crossroads Bible Institute headquarters in Grandville. The artwork was selected from over 40,000 inmates that the program works with. (Photo: Charles Jurries/CJR 454)

Sept. 21, 2009

GRANDVILLE, Mich. — A new art gallery has opened showing the best of artwork sent in by prisoners across America.

Crossroads Bible Institute has opened their Inmate Art Gallery this past week, with drawings and paintings selected from more than 40,000 inmates.

The gallery has opened at the program’s Grandville headquarters, after renovating a section of office space to accommodate and display artwork.

A permanent prison art gallery has been a dream of H. David Schuringa, president of Crossroads Bible Institute. Since he became president 10 years ago, Schuringa said he wanted a way to share with others the artwork that prisoners mailed in voluntarily.

Schuringa says he hopes the gallery will “bring dignity and honor to the artists.”

“People behind bars are usually not treated with a lot of dignity and no one cares about them,” he said. “They’re the forgotten ones of our society, and we hope by showcasing their art they will feel empowered and feel they are making a difference and have value in society.”

Kim Vander Lende is a graphic designer with Crossroads Bible Institute and is the curator of the gallery.

“When Dr. Schuringa started working for the company, he noticed that prisoners were sending in poems and their artwork and thought we should start publishing it,” said Vander Lende.

Publishing started by reproducing artwork and poems in a quarterly magazine, Crossroad Journal of the Arts. Through the periodical, Crossroads Bible Institute was able to ask for submissions for their new permanent art gallery.

The artwork, Schuringa hopes, will do more than look nice in a frame. “We hope this helps the general public to see people in prison in a different light, that they are not only people who have committed crimes but they are larger than that. They’re people with dreams, people with vision.”

The gallery features art with images of peace, such as a bright sunset or a dove in the clouds. Others pieces depicting frustration. One such piece depicted one person’s frustration with other’s putting their trust in “sources” for what is or what isn’t real in society, only to find out that what they get paid to proclaim is inaccurate.

Vander Lande said she hopes the gallery will expand before the end of the year, by making prints available for purchase and by adding additional artwork throughout the building, and changing out artwork in the gallery to “keep it fresh for visitors,” she said.

Another expansion she is looking into is creating a traveling exhibit; although as of yet no real plans have been laid down.

Schuringa said that he hopes the gallery will make a contribution to the art world.

“We are hoping this will become a destination gallery here in West Michigan and Grand Rapids for people interested in art and that this inmate gallery will be something that stands out,” he said.

Crossroads Bible Institute has seven foreign offices along with their Grandville office, working with faith-based ministry in prisons. The prison art gallery is located at 2976 Ivanrest SW, Suite 200 and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays.

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