Healing Through Art, Love & Peace Circles at PBMR
Artwork hangs from the ceiling at Art on 51st (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
The smell of freshly brewed coffee fills the air as you open the door at Art on 51st. It is a quaint and cozy gallery space that is utilized for multiple purposes. There is a lot of noise in the room from different voices conversing as they get ready to have the Restorative Justice Community Gathering in the space exhibiting Bound by Sisterhood: Women Sharing Stories of Love & Incarceration.
Community gathering breaks out and some stay behind to talk and enjoy the art on the walls. (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
From the ceiling hang a few captivating pieces– three glass windows with sculpted colorful hands at each side of the glass. Each window insinuates that they are trying to touch hands between the glass- an obvious portrayal of visitation time in the jails and prisons.
The right side wall is adorned with huge poster-like paintings with different messages. “On this side of the wall the art is made by women in the juvenile detention center and on the left, we utilized the space to honor the women who have gone through or are going through the suffering of having a loved one incarcerated,” said Sr. Donna Liette.
Art on 51st is a space owned by Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR). The basement houses a narrow woodshop where youth make their famous Peace Talk wood pieces, their garden beds, picnic tables and more. PBMR is a ministry that works as an agent of reconciliation and healing with people in the community and church who have been impacted by violence and conflict.
Community member takes his turn to speak while being passed the Peace Talk wood piece that is cut in the PBMR woodshop. (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
PBMR hosts monthly and bi-monthly shows in the space. “We try to pick a different theme and try to do it bi-monthly, “ said Brother Juan Acuna. “So actually, it was Sr. Donna’s idea to do something for women. So we put the energy to feature art and stories from women for [March] it was very intentional.”
PBMR mainly works with boys but Sr. Donna also accompanies Jacklyn, the only female incarcerated for life in Illinois. She wanted to celebrate women for Women’s International Month and include the voices of incarcerated women of all ages.
Fr. Kelly knows people at Free Write Arts and Literacy an organization that facilitates one-on-one literacy tutoring, workshops in creative writing, visual art, audio engineering, as well as publishing and public presentation opportunities for youth detained in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Naturally, they partnered and gathered stories and artwork. “It was a great partnership because we really didn’t have art made by youth,” said Sr. Donna.
She also works with a group of mothers in the neighborhood who have lost children to violence or are incarcerated. “We meet once a month, it’s more of a circle, first of all, we have a really nice brunch for them,” said Sr. Donna. The Mother’s Healing Circle was envisioned and started because when they would visit incarcerated youth she noticed a reoccurring ask. “They kept saying, when we visited, call my mother, call my mother I am really worried about my mother, I should’ve listened to my mom,” Sr. Donna explained. “ I started calling moms, another woman said why don’t we start a group.”
Sr. Donna said recently, she has been receiving calls and visits from concerned mothers from the neighborhood who have recently lost children to violence.
“Yesterday I got a call from a mother who had lost a son, she’s from the neighborhood and so it’s a real need and I guess someone passed the word- healing and sharing these stories and knowing that someone is with them and understands how they hurt,” said Sr. Donna.
PBMR also organizes trips to Menard and other prisons to keep families connected. “It’s expensive and for some of them, we are the only resource to visit their relatives…Menards is a seven to eight hour[drive]alone,” said Br. Juan. The exhibit is filled with work by women and shares the perspective of what it is to be directly impacted by incarceration
“We want the public to become informed about the impact of incarceration- to engage with the exhibit and to build with each other through dialogue and action can be very proactive in removing the causes of suffering and restoring the relationships harmed” said Sr. Donna to Free Write an organization that works with incarcerated and court-involved youth. These young people are engaged in the performing, visual, and literary arts.
For more information about the Art on 51st Center please contact Sr. Donna via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (773)952-6643. A new April Gallery exhibit will have new work and in May PBMR is looking to partner with the Richards Career Academy after-school visual arts program, Community Arts Sustaining Academics, CASA.