An art exhibit highlights inmate creativity and redemption

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An Easter weekend art exhibit by the Carteret County Arts Council highlighted the capacity for change through art created by prison inmates.

Dozens of inmates from the Carteret Correctional Center and Pamlico Corrections Institutions created colorful paintings and detailed drawings for the exhibit titled “Beyond the Fence.”

Artist and inmate at Carteret Correctional Center, Ibin Williams, was granted a temporary leave from prison to attend the exhibit. He said art is a way to channel emotions that otherwise could not be expressed behind prison walls. He said it took him years to find his potential after first stepping foot into prison about 17 years ago. “From the beginning, I was just mad at the world because I allowed myself to be put in this situation. Nobody put me here, I put myself in it,” Ibin said.

In the past, he signed his full name at the bottom of each painting, but it has been transformed to just ‘I Will.’

A story of perseverance is what Morehead City council member Lee Stiles knows firsthand. “It means a lot to me because I am formerly incarcerated. We should not look upon them as people who have committed crimes and made mistakes. they have a lot of potential, and they have an opportunity to go beyond the fence and succeed to be those living examples of success in our society,” he said. He added the exhibit fights a stigma attached to formerly incarcerated people, showing the underlying potential in people behind bars.

Before Ibin was incarcerated, he turned to negative ways to deal with his problems, but now he turned to art to cope with his emotions. “This is our voice. When you get frustrated, you are like ‘I don’t want to deal with this, I’m going to sit over here and draw the picture.”

All the artwork is for sale at the Carteret County Arts Council located at 1702 Arendell St, Morehead City, NC 28557. The proceeds go to a nonprofit organization selected by the inmates. The last day of the exhibit is April 13.

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