“I Too Can Create”
Jazz-inspired artwork by current and former prison inmates
Art and music go hand in hand with a broad, inclusive definition of community – one that recognizes and celebrates the humanity of everyone. Jazz music, in particular, has a powerful legacy of social justice and inclusivity which is celebrated in a project that coincided with the 2022 Pittsfield CityJazz Festival. The Berkshire House of Corrections and the Committee for Public Counsel Services, in collaboration with Berkshires Jazz, Inc., encouraged the creation and presentation of unique works of art crafted by inmates at the House of Corrections. With the theme of “I Too Can Create”, the work embodies the notions of community, music, art and humanity.
Sharing this artwork created by currently and formerly incarcerated individuals emphasizes an idea of community that encompasses people inside and outside the Berkshire House of Corrections walls. Three pieces were singled out for their content, emotion, and creativity; two by current inmates are identified only by their initials; the third piece, by former inmate Kevin Scace, was created while he was incarcerated, and is among his works that were displayed in April at the Elusie Gallery in Easthampton.
The project mentor was Phyllis Kornfeld, author, artist, and teacher of art to incarcerated men and women for 40 years. She observes, “It is always an illuminating, exciting event to see the prisoners discover something very positive, and mysterious, coming from inside themselves. The art is often miraculously fresh, and despite the context, there is a lot of joy.” The project was coordinated by Katherine Grubbs, of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and Alan Bianchi at the Berkshire House of Correction.
In one of the myriad comments about the arts, John F. Kennedy remarked, “After the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats in battle, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”
These three artworks explore that human spirit. They were displayed at the Berkshire Athenaeum and Berkshire Museum (pictured here) during the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival.