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Art from Within: Stone looks for new lease on life

Inmate 153509 of Stillwater Prison, Shane Stone, is shown with his honorable mention in watercolor, a self portrait. The exhibit is at the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts and open to the public through April. Patt Rall|Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI—Age 40 is not too late to get a new lease on life, or at least, that is the goal of inmate Shane Stone who was honored on Friday as the best emerging artist at the “Art from Within” juried show. A project of the Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, the annual art exhibit elicits work from artists who have some connection with incarceration; metaphorically or literally.

Some of the winners like Duane (Dewey) and Bambi Goodwin have no connection while others are still serving their prison terms.

The Goodwins are Native American artists who have raised their family on a small ranch here in Bemidji. The Goodwins are deeply rooted in their culture and folkways: farming, horses and practicing native crafts.

Duane is the head of the art department at Leech Lake Tribal College and a nationally recognized sculptor and educator.

“When Audrey (Thayer) asked me to speak at the opening reception for the show, I decided to bring in some of my work,” said Goodwin. “I haven’t shared my work with the community for a long time. I also brought in work from some of my students at the tribal college.”

Although Goodwin is noted for his sculpture, it was the beadwork vest that brought him top honors at the show. Goodwin said he learned how to make beadwork years ago and let the art form take a back seat to his other pursuits. Winner of the 2012 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award through the First People’s Fund, Goodwin was also asked to exhibit at the Eiteljord Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

And now we look at the life of inmate Shane Stone whose work garnered praise and mention from the jury and visitors to the reception.

“Some people do good for attention and some people do bad,” said Shane’s stepfather Dennis McInnany of Halma, north of Thief River Falls. “I am not married to his mother any more but I have tried to help him through the years. He has stayed with me a few times but I just don’t know why he gets in trouble. He is a fantastic painter  and I have many of his pictures in my home.”

McInnany has no answers as to why Stone keeps getting in trouble with the law. Nor does he (McInnany) have a problem with saying that sometimes he thinks with his heart so it is easy for him to continue to prop up Stone. Therefore, McInnany keeps hoping that this time life will change for Stone when he gets out of Stillwater Prison this coming November.

Is that a possibility? Stone surely hopes so for he has already applied to attend the technical college in East Grand Forks. But, having a prison record always seems to pollute his chances at jump starting his life after incarceration.

The quote from Stone’s artist statement posted by his prize winning self portrait is: “My art is self taught but (I) was introduced to the world of art by my mother (Lenore Otto) and native relatives as a child. Self expression and the freedom of rights to do so have helped me through difficult times with the law and depression.”

Depression and hopelessness seems to be a recurring theme in the artist’s statements in this show. In Stone’s favor is the praise for his art work—truly art from within.