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Local artists collaborate with Blue Jacket clients to turn life stories into art
By Greg Jackson
Fort Wayne Reader
The Blue Jacket Second Chance Auction is a great fundraising event for one of the best causes in today’s world. Blue Jacket is an organization that helps adults improve their quality of living through teaching skills in both career and life to help specially challenged adults get out of bad situations. This isn’t a program that just gives out jobs and moves on, but rather a program to teach people how to improve their overall quality of life through new careers and life skills.
Recidivism is the rate at which people that have been let out of incarceration end up back in prison after release. The recidivism rates for both state and federal recidivism are eye-opening. As of last March, Indiana’s recidivism rate calculated by the justice department was 76%, meaning 76% of all state inmates let out on release end up back in prison within five years. The federal rate is at 44%, which is better, but really? Are we okay with this cycle of life for what is a large section of our population? I am not even going to start of the racial impact of recidivism and what subsection of these rates are black vs. white.
Blue Jacket’s mission is to lower these recidivism rates across the board. The importance of what Blue Jacket does for these people is huge. Without a “Blue jacket” organization it seems these folks just do not have much of a fighting chance at all. When people graduate from the Blue Jacket Career Academy they have both the skills and connections to get jobs to make ends meet which is the big difference between success and return to the old life style.
The Second Chance Auction is a fine art auction in which the proceeds go to benefit Blue Jacket’s program for teaching these people skills to improve their life situations. 13 prominent artists in town that donate their time and talent to create two or three pieces that tell the story of one of the Blue Jacket clients. Each artist is paired with a client and then the artist sits down with the client a few times and gets their “story” and uses their specific artistic medium to tell that story through their artwork. This is not the easiest of tasks for the artists here as they get challenged by having to tell a story that isn’t always easy to tell.
I have been somewhat close to this particular event as my wife has been involved as both an artist and on the committee that organizes the event for the last couple years. Life happens to all of us at some point or another and some people get into bad situations, but that doesn’t mean they are bad people. So many of the Blue Jacket clients just had circumstances or maybe reactions that got them into trouble or even worse grew up from childhood seeing a certain way of life that most of us would cringe if we really had to live this way. They are people who are taking control of their life again and working towards a goal, which is what we all do in life. Most of the time they are quite gracious folks who appreciate life much more than most of us on a day-to day-basis. We could all learn from that life lesson.
I spoke with Stephan Perfect the other day, who happens to be one of the artists this year and he told me about Edward Jennings who is his Blue jacket client. Edward spent some time in prison and while in there he wrote a lot of song lyrics and poems. So, when Stephan met with Edward the first time he saw a hand written book Edward made of these poems and song lyrics. Stephan had an idea to try and get one of Edwards poems turned into a song. Stephan went to Beth Patterson at Canterbury Highschool and approached her about having one of the classes work together on this project to put music to these lyrics. He told me the entire class volunteered to put melody to these words written by Edward. David Toderan also worked on this project with them and the thought is to have the song either performed or played on audio at the live auction at the Ft. Wayne Museum of Art on March 31st.
Stephan also did his story on Edward with his photography and incorporated some of the handwritten lyrics into the photographs. Stephan took some of his photos and layered them with the lyrics and I am certain it will be awesome images. Knowing some of the artists and having been at last year’s event this is a fun night even if you’re not purchasing artwork. It was quite exciting last year as some of the pieces are not silent auction, but rather an auctioneer getting the crowd into it. It was a fun evening and a way to mix different crowds of people together in one place and see them forget some of the societal issues that get in our way a lot of times.
My wife worked with a woman this year that grew up in a loving “church going” family and just got off the beaten path and it turned into some dark times, but has since come out of those dark times and is doing quite well for herself. The challenge for my wife is trying to tell a story that goes from light-hearted childhood to some dark times and back into the better place. How do you make that look beautiful with artwork? That’s the challenge these artists face when doing these pieces for the clients and this auction.
Last year when my wife first told me about this event and her involvement I like most had my kneejerk reaction to be cautious, but learned quite quickly that I wasn’t so much cautious yet more small minded. Now, I have somewhat of a firsthand experience here as I too have gotten into a very bad situation in life through some poor decisions at crucial times. I have spent 3 years now working my way out of a bad decision. I can sympathize with these folks more than most and understand that each day in life is special and should be used to its fullest. We all forget this from time to time, or maybe most of the time. But if we can be understanding and try to pick one another up when life happens we will be a much better society as a whole.
What: Blue Jacket 2nd Annual Second Chance Auction
When: March 31st, 2017
Where: Ft. Wayne Museum of Art from 6pm-9pm