Union Democrat staff

The exhibit is available for viewing from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Columbia College is located at 11600 Columbia College Drive in Sonora. There is no admission fee.

The artworks were created by students in the William James Association’s Prison Arts Project class taught at SCC. The course is made possible by a contract through California Arts in Corrections, a partnership between CDCR and the California Arts Council.

Stacy Hay is a retired corrections officer who teaches an arts class for inmates at Sierra Conservation Center.

“The process of creativity opens the mind and the human spirit," she said in an article in the Inside CDCR newsletter published by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "It teaches self-discipline and problem solving.”

The class, sponsored by the William James Association's Prison Arts Program, also decreases tension in the prison and lowers recidivism rates, she said.

Work by class participants is on display at Columbia College. In all, 100 paintings, including landscapes, birds, animals, underwater fish, planets and abstract works, are featured in the Artistic Realms show, which runs through March 28 in the Manzanita Building.

Many of the frames were made by the vocational carpentry program at SCC, supervised by instructor Randy Bland.

Bids on artworks will be taken via silent auction through 4 p.m. March 27. Proceeds from the sales of the artwork will go to two non-profit organizations — Columbia College Foundation Art Scholarship and Columbia College Student Food Bank.

"Most of these students are getting out of prison and could be your neighbors," Hay said. "This art exhibition gives them a way to give back to our local community.”