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Photo by Fred Pollard
Artist Charles Howland displays one of the ceramic plates he has designed and will be on display at the Con Artist event April 12 at Spirits Lounge. Alongside Howland are paintings done by inmate Lawrence Zeno, whom Howland met while incarcerated and also will be on display.
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Photo by Fred Pollard
Charles Howland stands next to one of his creations, a ceramic “happy face” plate he created while incarcerated.
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ALTON – As Charles Howland was serving time, he realized he wasn’t the only one with creative outlets, and told other prisoners when he was released he would find a way to share their artwork with the world.
Howland kept his promise. On April 12, his ceramic art, along with artwork from other currently and previously incarcerated prisoners, will be on display at the first “Con Artist” exhibit, presented through Dark Horse Art Works of Alton.
The event begins at 5 p.m. with an “art talk” at 7:30 p.m. at the Spirits Lounge in Alton. Included in the pieces on display are paintings from Lawrence Zeno, currently incarcerated, and Howland’s painted ceramic creations, along with pieces from other prisoners.
Some of Howland’s molded ceramic chess art will be on display, as well.
“I have always enjoyed painting and creating, all the way back to my Lite-Brite days,” Howland said. “I just enjoy working with my hands.”
Howland, who served 19 years on drug-related charges and lives in Granite City, says for many inmates, art is their only means of expression and often must be creative with attaining the materials needed.
“We couldn’t just go to the store to get supplies, so we have to invent ways to make our materials, down to mixing the liner of the chalk from the softball field with the paint to make more texture,” he said.
Howland paid to have the artwork from other inmates shipped to him so he could share it with others.
Eric Stauffer, founder and proprietor of Dark Horse Art Works, says this event will be a flagship for an ongoing series in an attempt to save art that too often is discarded when inmates are released or transferred.
“Dark Horse is planning on this being just the first of many exhibits in this (genre),” Stauffer said. “This is really unique art from a really unique source. There are wonderful artists who are incarcerated, and who knows what art has been lost over the years that people will never have the opportunity to see.”
Stauffer met up with Howland, who is in the process of opening up a shop in Mineral Springs Mall, when the latter wandered into the Jacoby Arts Center, where Stauffer worked at the time, curious to see what the center had to offer.
“We struck up a conversation, and I was really intrigued at the idea of showing his art,” Stauffer said.
“Con Artist” begins at 5 p.m. on the third floor of the Spirits Lounge, 300 State St., Alton.
“I want to thank Tim (Brueggeman) and Greg (Graham) from Spirits; they have really helped Dark Horse,” Stauffer said.
Admission fee for the event is $10. For more information, call (618) 310-4118 or visit the website at www.darkhorseartworks.com.