Art proves a form of escape for prisoners
QUEENSLAND Maroon's ace Jonathan Thurston made it a point to visit Parliament House during his stint in Brisbane.
After all, the rugby league player's portrait is one of the main attractions at a unique art exhibition currently on show at the parliamentary venue.
The display is unique in that the art featured is the handiwork of prison inmates from the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre.
Some of the contributing artists are serving sentences from 10 years to life imprisonment.
The exhibition called Inside Out is the product of a formal art course that is offered to prisoners at the Lockyer Valley facility.
It follows the success of a similar display held at Parliament House in August last year.
The exhibition aims to give the incarcerated artists the chance to showcase their talents to a public audience.
It also highlights the work they have undertaken through the various rehabilitative art programs available at SQCC.
Among the exhibition's first visitors were members of the Queensland State of Origin Team - including Thurston - and Lockyer Valley MP Ian Rickuss.
"Thurston was rapt with the painting and very impressed with the quality of the artwork," Mr Rickuss said.
"I am hoping to persuade him to come to SQCC and tell the prisoners how much he liked the paintings personally."
Mr Rickuss said he would like to see more of the prison's art works sold to benefit charities and other worthy causes.
He said it cost a lot to keep prisoners in jails and that it would be a good way for inmates to give back to the community.
The centre's head of offender education Malcolm Wake said the impressive works had taken weeks - sometimes months - for the artists to create.
He added that the process had proved to be an effective emotional and creative outlet for the offenders.
"The artistic outlet provides a progressive medium which is both therapeutic and rewarding," he said.
"Exhibitions like these give prisoners a real opportunity to demonstrate their artistic abilities which can go some way to providing an alternate crime-free pathway outside prison."