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art as blessing

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A little sculpture sent to Dungavel with other offerings,
before I was told that glass and ceramics weren't permitted

Beauty can be a sanctuary when you're in hardship.

I believe art shouldn't be something restricted
to the privileged few who can afford it, but that its
healing and redemptive quality should be available
even-and-especially for those with little or nothing.

I've been working on my current 'giveaway' for several years.

It began as a response to The Detainee’s Tale, a
piece by Ali Smith that The Guardian ran in 2015

This featured an interview with a refugee held at
Brook House Immigration Removal Centre, near Gatwick,
where over 400 detainees are held when at full capacity.

Amidst the many injustices touched on, the bleak lack of beauty
or anything creative in Immigration Removal Centres (IRC's)
particularly struck me, and I sent a piece of artwork
to the interviewee as a small token of solidarity.

This idea soon grew to one of sending all the detainees
at Brook House a piece of artwork, and I began
working towards this in July 2015.

As I wrote in an email to G4S HQ after eight months of
fruitless effort to get a positive response from the appropriate person:

This is not about judging whether the detainees are wrong or
wronged, if they should be allowed to stay in the UK or deported.
It's simply a reaching out from heart to heart through the medium of
art, which has the ability to go beyond words and dissolve differences.

Continued months of having the project blocked meant I was
finally forced to give up on Brook House, but a few years later
I began again, this time directing my efforts towards Scotland's
only IRC,Strathaven’s Dungavel House, which is more local
to me as I’m in Eskdalemuir, Dumfries & Galloway.

After a few months of persistently calling, emailing and sending
in ‘sample packages’ of artwork, in August 2022 I was finally given
a contact at Dangavel through which I could send artwork to detainees
(though I wasn’t allowed names to send pieces to, which I still feel
would make what is sent more personally meaningful.)

Since then, I’ve sent around a hundred pieces of artwork to detainees
at Dungavel. Though I’ve not, as yet, had any feedback from anyone
who was given one, I have been told they are being received.

Though I was told in November 2022 that I had sent enough
artwork for all detainees to have a piece (numbers being low
around Christmas), I'm continuing with the project
for the foreseeable future.

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One of the collections of artwork sent to detainees
at Dungavel, this one with a feather theme

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Personal notes on the back of the artwork

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Each piece wrapped in scarves and vibrant fabric

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Another batch of artwork
on its way to Dungavel

Donations for the Art for Detainees project
have been kindly provided by Mary.

If you'd like to donate too, 100%
will go towards p&p and gifts
I include with artwork sent.

Thank you!

© shen chökyi 2013