Incarcerated artists to raise money for YWCA

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Incarcerated artists in correctional facilities all over the state are raising money for social justice causes and victims of domestic violence through the Unguarded Art Auction at LeMay America’s Car Museum. 

Coordinated by a team of community partners, including United HealthCare Community Plan, Department of Corrections, Pierce County Community Partnership for Transition Services and Numbers2Names, the event will feature more than 200 pieces of created and donated art ranging from acrylic and watercolor paintings to Native American beaded pieces, sculptures, jewelry, and more. Proceeds from the auction will be split among the YWCAs of Seattle and King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties and will be used to enhance their emergency shelters and domestic violence programs. 

“The YWCA Pierce County is thrilled to benefit from this fundraiser because it focuses on healing and empowerment,” said Miriam Barnett, CEO of the YWCA of Pierce County. “We have always believed in the power of the arts as a way to express what is going on inside someone’s soul. 

“The arts provide inspiration and courage, which parallels the inspiration and courage of our clients who have all escaped domestic violence,” she said. “What our world needs is more opportunities to experience the arts. This event is a win-win. The participants (artists) win by being able to use the arts for expressing what they are feeling. The YWCA wins because proceeds go to empowering women and their families to start new lives free from violence. Our programs focus on the arts as therapy. And the people who attend win because they get to purchase art, bringing beauty into their environment while supporting two great YWCA’s. Thank you for including us in this innovative and inspirational event.” 

The auction event will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15 at LeMay America’s Car Museum, 2702 E. D St. Admission is $10 and includes parking, partial museum access, tapas, and one drink ticket. Registration is open now. 

This is the second statewide charity art auction featuring inmate artwork. In 2018, the first Unguarded Art Auction raised $11,845 for the American Red Cross and victims of a series of hurricanes that year that devastated the U.S. Gulf Coasts and Puerto Rico. 

The idea for the first auction came from two incarcerated individuals at Cedar Creek Corrections Center who had seen the destruction of Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria on the TV in the prison’s day room, according to Department of Corrections Reentry Navigator Kim Beckham. 

Incarcerated individuals came to her with the idea of selling their art to raise money for charity. Soon Beckham was working with an advisory panel of incarcerated individuals, prison administrators from all over the state and local community organizations to hold an auction. 

“This event spotlights the good that is happening inside prison,” Beckham said. “The men and women inside our fences know what is happening in our communities and want to help. They did make choices that led to their incarceration but that doesn’t mean they would make those same choices if their circumstances were different; trauma often leads to more trauma. This year, the artists were excited to choose the YWCA because of the important work it does.” 

Incarcerated individuals helped select the recipient of this year’s auction, the YWCA. The YWCA is a national organization whose mission is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering, women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Local YWCAs run community-specific programs related to overall mission. Examples of YWCA programs include emergency shelters and programs that provide advocacy and basic need services to domestic violence victims and programs supporting women’s economic advancement and therapeutic services for children and families. 

“The YWCA is the largest provider of domestic violence services for African American women in King County and works with partners across the region to deliver shelter and safety for survivors of all walks of life,” said Maria Chavez Wilcox, CEO of the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish counties. “We are thrilled to be art of the Unguarded Art Auction and a community that shares our values of dignity, justice and equity.”

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