MINNEAPOLIS — A former Stillwater corrections officer has made it his mission to keep serving the incarcerated, even after his retirement following 20 years of service.
Adrian Espinosa is the founder of Art from the Inside (AFTI), a nonprofit that works with incarcerated people to create and sell artwork in communities outside of their correctional facilities.
According to the organization's website, Espinosa created the project as a way to encourage healing and forgiveness after Joseph Gomm, his friend and fellow correctional officer, was killed by an inmate.
"The project is all about restoring people, trying to let people know that they have worth," Espinosa said. "Incarcerated folks, people who have been pushed to the side for the things that they’ve done in society and not given a space for expression, a space for uplifting."
After Gomm's death, the community at Stillwater needed to rebuild and Espinosa started to work with administrators and the broader community outside to bring in educational and cultural events for inmates. According to the AFTI website, the experiences were a success and as Espinosa looked for other opportunities, Art from the Inside was created.
Individuals are able to list a price and sell their artwork, with 10% of funds going to Minnesota Children's Hospital and the rest to the artist.
"When the art is exhibited, when it’s on the walls, we give the community an opportunity to write a note back to the artist, letting them know about how their art affected them," said Espinosa. "That message comes back into the facility and it’s given back to each person, depending on who responds to their art."
In the next few months, the organization plans on presenting a donation to Minnesota Children's Hospital.
"I’m not an artist, but I feel that what I’ve been doing is a form of art. You try to connect people and bring the humanity back into those from whom humanity has been taken away.
"You need to be proactive, not reactive. And we could do things to help each other and help our communities to strive. But we have to be the change that we want to see. You cant wait for somebody else to do that work," Espinosa said.
You can learn more about the AFTI project here.
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