We all smile when we think about them. A euphemism for hospitality, goodwill, inclusion, and welcome. It shouldn’t be a shocker that the same colloquial phrase is not applied to prison. Instead it’s the Big House, The Pen, or The Slammer. We can all identify the classic slamming of the door as a symbol for prison.

It was fortuitous the first time that the city of Aberdeen asked the prison if they would want to participate in the newest community art exhibit. The theme? You guessed it. It was Doors.

Historically, the city of Aberdeen has always been connected to the prison. As they began a new art project, they considered including the prison as part of it. Members of the art community decided to give Stafford Creek Corrections Center two doors and asked them to paint them however they wanted to. Each artist was given a salvaged door, and they were extended the liberty to design it as they saw fit. The door was the prisoner’s blank canvas.

Marv and Luis U. were the two artists selected by the prison. Eagerly they took to the challenge and began painstakingly plotting out their neurotically intense projects.

Luis U. decided he wanted his door to have a dragon. But being a true artist, he chose to not be confined by his canvas. Instead of painting on it, he decided to have it ripping out of the metal, snarling and twisting over the surface. Marv, not to be upstaged by Luis, created a fully functional steam punk door with twisting gears and visible mechanics, even a working clock mounted on the bottom. When they were finished, the doors were breathtaking.

People were shocked by the talent and intricacy involved in the crafting of the dragon and the steam punk doors. Resoundingly the same question was asked, “Where did these come from?”

With an equally baffling answer, “The Prisoners.”

The people from the art exhibition did not expect such a creative and dynamic talent to exist within the walls of the local prison. That such imagination could exist so close to their own community.

What was the result? They regretted only asking for two doors. Moving forward, the community wanted to expand the prison’s involvement in all social activity and fundraising exhibitions.

An eager partnership was formed with the Adoor Project of PNW. They agreed to supply salvaged doors to be refurbished within the prison and made into pieces of art for charity. All the completed doors would be highlighted in businesses throughout the community. Later they would be auctioned off with the entire proceeds going to support scholarships for local high school students.

Art seems to have an interesting effect. In a place that is filled with people that refuse to belong, prisoners are continually confined behind closed doors. However, there is a light that lives within them. A light that connects them to all of humanity. A common language that binds all of us through artwork and the expression of it. The desire to be seen, to be heard, and to open doors that show what lives beautifully within all of us. Art opens doors.

Paul Thorsteinson #807019
191 Constantine Way
Aberdeen, WA 98520