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Arts

Their Hearts Into Art

Incarcerated students’ work exhibits ingenuity and passion


[click to enlarge]
Ronald Chavez aka Dreamer
“Envelope art is a strong tradition in the jails,” says Juli Cobb. “We will have a number of them displayed at the Library. Most students work with ball point pens and the detail and shading is remarkable.”
[click to enlarge]
Hendrick Yellowhorse
“Envelope art is a strong tradition in the jails,” says Juli Cobb. “We will have a number of them displayed at the Library. Most students work with ball point pens and the detail and shading is remarkable.”
Where Juli Cobb teaches, the school uniform is orange, the attendance rate is almost perfect, and the atmosphere can be stressful: “There are doors that clang and dogs that come in and sniff things,” she says.

Cobb’s art students are inmates at the Bernalillo Metropolitan Detention Center. They study at the Gordon Bernell Charter Schoolone of only two full high schools in the US housed in a jail. (The other one is in San Francisco.)

The students have to be creative at developing projects from the get-go. “I can’t bring many things in there that are second nature to an art teacher,” Cobb says. Everything is a potential weapon, including scissors and heavy objects. Even ink is forbidden in order to prevent illicit prison tattoos.

So when they were supposed to design objects for the OFFCenter Community Arts Project’s “Albuquirky Little Houses” Silent Auction, for which artists usually construct diminutive homes out of wood, Cobb was at a loss. She bunted the problem to her class and the resourceful students decided to draw the shapes onto paper and collage together the walls of each house.

Quirky houses decorated by Gordon Bernell students
Ron Breen
Quirky houses decorated by Gordon Bernell students
Home is where I left my heART: Writings and Art for Our Families from Afar, the Gordon Bernell students’ upcoming exhibit at the Special Collections Library (423 Central NE), will put similar creative solutions on display with a collaborative quilt of collages expressing memories of the students' kitchen tables and several collaborative mosaics of mini-masterpiece paintings. In addition, you can scope envelope art, handmade poetry books and more from Cobb’s students and those of colleague and co-exhibit coordinator Andrea Fletcher.

Cobb’s average students are in their early twenties to mid-thirties. “If they have a GED but they don’t have a diploma, they can take classes,” Cobb explains. The students tend to be highly motivated yet extremely unsure of themselves. Unlike some teenage “know-it-alls” in regular high schools, these older students suffer from real problems with self-esteem. And when students come in depressed, “something is going on.” Are they worrying about a court date? Are they missing their children?

However, mostly the students are lighthearted in class. “I’ve got a ton of students now that I care about,” Cobb says. “The classes are so joyful. They love being in school.” See that love and redemption shining through at the opening reception for Home is where I left my heart on Thursday, May 22, from 4 to 6:30pm.

View in Alibi calendar calendar
Home is where I left my heART:
Writings and Art for Our Families from Afar
opening reception

Exhibit continues through June 21

Thursday, May 22, 4 to 6:30pm

Special Collections Library
423 Central NE
abclibrary.org/specialcollections, 848-1376
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10am-6pm; Thursday 11am-7pm; closed Sunday and Monday
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The CNM Chronicle Snapshot

Contributed Photo: Back right—Adviser Jack Ehn; Middle row from left—Distribution Manager Brandy Valles, Features Reporter Shaya Rogers, Editor-in-Chief Jyllian Roach, Production Manager Jonathan Gamboa, Managing Editor Adriana Avila; Front row from left—Art Director Scott Roberts, Investigative Reporter Daniel Johnson
Contributed Photo: Back rightAdviser Jack Ehn; Middle row from leftDistribution Manager Brandy Valles, Features Reporter Shaya Rogers, Editor-in-Chief Jyllian Roach, Production Manager Jonathan Gamboa, Managing Editor Adriana Avila; Front row from leftArt Director Scott Roberts, Investigative Reporter Daniel Johnson

We here at The Weekly Alibi would like to extend a congratulatory hand to The CNM Chronicle for taking third place in the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) 2013 International Best in Show Competition at the Midwinter Conference in San Francisco, which went from Feb. 27 to March 3.

The CNM Chronicle, a student-run publication, is issued weekly at the Central New Mexico Community College (CNM). The award comes as a nice surprise, considering just a couple of years ago, there was a lag in readership.

“It's a lot of validation for us because two years ago the paper wasn't doing too well, and it was kind of considered a joke on campus.” Jyllian Roach, editor-in-chief of the paper, said. “I sat down with the editor before me, and we came up with a list of ways to make the paper better.

“We felt that we were doing a good job, and we watched our numbers go up as far as readers go, so it's nice that other people recognize that we're doing the right thing.”

Ironically, CNM doesn't even have a journalism program. So, the recognition of their work is literally derived from the intuition, ingenuity and zeal of the students who run the Chronicle.

“We only have an intro class, so more than anything, we were trying to figure out how to train ourselves and how to train our staff to do good journalism,” Roach said. “As a community college paper, our legacy is just a snapshot, and my term as editor is a snapshot.

“So, the paper will grow and change with different editors. In five years, it won't be anything like it is now.”

Well, this award is one nice snapshot.

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Courtesy of Jesse Lopez

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