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Incarcerated Artists Art Auction for Hurricane Relief

February 9, 2018

By Rachel Friederich

DOC Communications

picture of girl with american flag in frame with words on frame of together we stand divided we fall

Painting of child draped in the US flag by inmate Stacy Dockins. (Photo Credit Kim Beckham, Cedar Creek Corrections Center)

See Gallery (event photos added Feb. 21)

TACOMA — Inmates from across the state are helping hurricane victims, one brush stroke at a time. The Department of Corrections (DOC), in partnership with Bates Technical College and Numbers2Names volunteers, is hosting an art auction Friday, February 16, 2018 to raise money for hurricane relief.

“Unguarded: Incarcerated Artist Art Auction for Hurricane Relief,” will feature more than 200 donated inmate-made art pieces from prisons across the state. As of February 6, more than 120 inmates statewide had created pieces for the auction. Money raised from the auction will be given to the American Red Cross. The event runs from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the central campus of Bates Technical College, 2320 South 19th Street in Tacoma. Admission is free.

“We’re shining a light on the fact that the people who are incarcerated want to give back,” said Kim Beckham, community partnership program coordinator, at Cedar Creek Corrections Center.

An Artful Idea

Beckham helped coordinate participation among other prison facilities. She says the initial idea came from a couple of inmates.

Many of the inmates watched hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria pummel Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands on television in prison day rooms.

“One of the inmates had the idea of offering some sort of aid to hurricane victims and other suggested an art sale, so collectively, the idea was born,” Beckham said. She loved the idea so much she decided to expand the opportunity to inmates at other prisons. She even had inmates assist in writing the project proposal for DOC leadership staff.

“We who are confined are not unaware of the world outside of prison,” wrote James Pyles, an inmate at Larch Corrections Center. “And like people on the other side of the prison’s fences, we are touched by the images we see. But unlike those outside of prison walls, we can’t pick up a phone and give to our favorite charity or volunteer with a local outreach group. Though our imprisonment is the product of our own selfish choices, we nevertheless feel compassion in the face of others suffering. We too, want to help.” The art the public will be able to bid on includes oil and acrylic paintings, welded yard art made from discarded materials, knitted Afghan blankets, fine pencil drawings, beadwork, handmade Native American drums, and more.

The Lakewood Arts Commission is loaning display equipment for the donated artwork. Correctional Industries staff collected and inventoried each piece of art. They’re also transporting the art to the college.


Inmates may participate in various recreation programs during their incarceration, which includes craftwork. As per DOC policy, inmates must pay a quarterly fee to participate and use their own money to pay for supplies.

DOC staff say recreational activities can improve public safety by reducing idleness and promoting pro-social behavior among inmates. It can reduce disciplinary problems and stress-related injuries. It also encourages inmates to take responsibility for health and wellness by adopting positive lifestyle habits.

Scientists with National Oceanic at Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have reported 2017 was the costliest hurricane season in history. Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey caused an estimated $265 billion in damage. Hundreds of people were killed in Puerto Rico and many areas on the island are still without power and clean drinking water.

The inmates know their participation in the project will have no impact on their sentences, but staff say inmates are glad they can have an altruistic impact, even if it is from behind bars.

“We are shining a light on the fact that people who are incarcerated want to give back,” Beckham said. “They’ve been watching the news just like everybody else and have been compelled to help.”

Event Information

Tickets are free and are available through Eventbrite.

If you cannot attend the auction, but still want to contribute to hurricane relief, you can donate directly to the American Red Cross. State employees can make payroll contributions through the Washington State Combined Fund Drive.

For more information about the auction, e-mail Kim Beckham.