The Episode Summary
Today I have a great guest who started a prison art initiative back in 2012. Inspired by his brother, who is currently serving a life sentence. Kevin recalls it was his brother, who asked why he never wrote him a letter while serving a previous conviction. Art heals, art changes lives. Letters and podcasts allow incarcerated individuals to keep a close bond with the world. His business has evolved; however, his goal is still the same: To reduce recidivism by providing unique ways to maintain those bonds and make them stronger. Here at Designed Conviction we support initiatives like this one, we have high respect for Kevin, please check out his website https://www.kytesketch.com/ Thank you until next Wednesday!
[00:00:00] Cecilia: Hello. So welcome back. I have a new episode today before starting and having our guest, I’m going to show you the featured artwork Free Taylor by the way, end mass incarceration. So there’s one is from Ashley Mullins.
It’s cool. I liked the colors and the themes and everything. So you can find her on our website. So you need her contact information and you know what, I’m going to put it here in the description. It’s more like
Let’s wait for this guy.
So tell me, Kevin, tell me about your, what are you doing? What’s going on with you?
Kevin: Okay, well, let’s see, basically what we do is art and so art therapy. Are rehabilitation are both inherent in our creative processes. Our journey started back in 2012. Actually, when [00:01:30] I decided to create a website that basically allowed the loved ones of incarcerated people to connect with their incarcerated loved ones.
And that’s when we first got into the correction services game, if you will. I was inspired to get involved by my brother. Who’s actually currently doing life in the Fest. He went in for the first time. I want to say like 88, somewhere like that. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, we came up in a broken home if you will.
And he got involved with juvenile delinquency. Wind up going to a juvenile detention center for a little while. And then eventually he came back home and they got into other types of crime. Right. And it landed him into prison. And immediately, I believe that God planted a certain consciousness inside of me because I noticed that my family, my father.
The way that he approached my brother’s incarceration really caught my attention. He didn’t do what I thought he should have done, which was a, been a little bit more supportive. I did, I saw an attitude that reflected a mindset of out of sight out of mind. And this is basically a cliche [00:03:00] now, but I basically just talks to this, this condition in our communities where, when someone gets arrested, The rest of the family’s slowly, but surely begins to forgive them, forget about them.
Cecilia: Specially when they get life right?
Kevin: Yeah. Especially when they get life, but this was even before life. I just noticed that my family didn’t really support them the way that I felt like he should have been supported, you know, he was my older brother. And so I loved him like crazy. And so, yeah. I just was like, okay, this is kind of weird, you know, so my brother got out and I remember very vividly that the first thing you wanted to know was why didn’t anybody write him?
And he asked me that personally, and I really didn’t have a good answer. And so it was situations like that that made it very apparent to me that if this was happening in my family, that it could be happening in other families. People who stay connected to positive people or more likely to get out and stay out.
And so. So reducing recividism is a major goal for kite skins. And that’s pretty much how we got started in the industry. Yeah.
Cecilia: I like it. Like, it makes a lot of sense, especially because you transformed a hassle is like, it’s difficult to actually take your time to write something and then put in on the mail, and you say, okay, just put this online. We take care of it. So [00:04:30] you made it very convenient.
Kevin: So company was called kite cards. Right around that time. I started my master’s program at Boston university in the process. I learned that there were some weaknesses in that business model. So one day I was at the bookstore I’m, I’m an avid reader and I bumped into a book and it was a, it was a doodle book.
And basically the book consisted of several. Um, illustrations that were half done, the concept is for the user to, to like sketch out the rest of the image. Well, I have a background in art. I used to be an art teacher, matter of fact, and I’m very good with the Adobe creative suite. So right away, a, a light bulb went off in my head and I was like, you know, this would be an amazing art therapy tool for inmates as an artist and as an art teacher, I was well aware of the power of the ability that art has to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
And I knew all of those. Yeah. I knew all of those things were already present. Inside the prison system. I came up with a marketing strategy to introduce our postcards, to incarcerated men and women all across the U [00:06:00] S along with the postcard, we sent the message that basically said, if you create the image, send that to a loved one and have them posted on my Instagram page.
Right. You could win a monthly contest as a result of this contest. I was able to accumulate a large body of artwork, right? So I’m the entrepreneur in me kicked in and I found a way to bring that magic out into the world because it was very important to me to show. Your everyday person that people on the inside have talent and they have something to offer.
Cecilia: Yeah, I bet. Yeah, I definitely get you because Designed Conviction is also about changing the narrative. We also have to have artwork like the one, let me show you or so every week and trying to feature one artwork, and this is from Ashley Mullins.
Kevin: Wow. That is really nice.
Cecilia: Exactly is one of my favorites
Kevin: Ooh. Yes. That is beautiful. Who’s who did that one?
You say? Oh, wow. Wow. Yes.
Cecilia: So yes, I totally get, [00:07:30] I really you I really admire what you are doing because we are trying to do something similar. And what I like is that and what I’m mostly like a, like both of us, we have a loved one incarcerated. So this, until you have a loved one on incarcerated, when you realize how bad things are.
Yes. When you told me about how people reacted, very strong against your idea, just because it has really with prisonersis I get you, is people are just so really close minded. Do you feel I it has changde in the last eight years since 2012?
Kevin: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Slowly but surely I start finding of the groups that were doing the same thing I was doing as time went on.
I just saw more and more people. Advocating for prisoner rights, but it didn’t surprise me because I had already done the numbers. I knew about the 2.3 million that are incarcerated, especially in the minority community. You know where I want to say it’s up to one out of four African American males will be incarcerated one hour photo one on five, something like that.
Kevin: Right, right. And so America has a long history of bondage. And so I consider myself an advocate because I don’t [00:09:00] shy away from pointing out. The fact that America is slave issue from 400 years ago has totally evolved into the prison system. And I still see the prison system attached. To finances. And I still seeing people exploit it for the good and the gains of other people.
Cecilia: And so. Yes. And in this case, for example, Taylor, he’s not black. He’s actually white. His mother is actually one 100, 100% European. So his white white white but he didnt have money. He wasn’t in the right place. Like he didn’t grew up in the nice neighborhood or anything. Whenever that happened, he didn’t have money for an attorney.
So now he’s serving life. So I agree like the minorities and also minority, even Mexican. Okay. So the minorities are the ones that are more vulnerable, but that’s has to do with finances.
Kevin: So, yes I am glad you pointed it out.
Cecilia: I agree with that. If you don’t have money or education or access to education or nobody to actually inspire you to be doing good.
Like what are you talking about? Like your father, he didn’t know how to actually handle your brother. He could have done better, but. At the same time. I don’t blame him. It’s difficult to handle with those situations, but if you don’t have [00:10:30] money or nobody to really support you or kind of show you the way.
You probably will end up in prison, live in prison for stuff that people with money spend like two or three years for. Right? Which is…
Kevin: absolutely. And then I can share my thoughts on that a little bit money, money has everything to do with it. And it starts with our jails, our County jails, and the way that if you have money, You can bail out fight.
So often people without money are stuck serving time. You know, a lot of times they don’t get the speedy trials that they deserve. And so some of them can spend months just because they don’t have the money to bail out. And a lot of these people, even when they do get to jail to see the judge there, they’re not convicted, you know, for that crime.
And so it just goes to show how the lack of, um, financial resources can, can really make all the difference. Oh, you know, I believe, you know, all of those things make a big difference. The type of neighborhoods you grow up in. Yeah. And yeah, these are, these are things that are very subtle. Like for instance, I grew up in the late eighties in a decent blue collar town.
And when the crack epidemic epidemic [00:12:00] came through, the town kind of switched from day to night, you know what I mean? It went worse and went downhill. And before you knew it, our communities were police by the, by the authorities heavily. I mean, you would see a police officer every 30 minutes, you know, they just, and they were fighting crime, supposedly because now 20 years later, I have a bigger viewpoint of what was, what I lived through the war on drugs and stuff like that.
But I made it out. I made it out. I made it out through I’m sports. Right? I’m the sport of wrestling. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but I was able to scholarship, went to college. And became an art teacher, and this is tied into my love for art. When I was able to afford a home in a nice neighborhood, it really just clicked.
And it became very clear that the are overpoliced communities were a big part of the problem. Cause I still see a lot of the same things in this neighborhood that I seen in that neighborhood. Maybe not so much, you know, but at the same time you don’t have the police there every 30 minutes to catch every little infraction.
And so, yeah, it’s these disparities that, that drive me. And [00:13:30] then I’m not the type that make excuses because again, if I can make it, I believe that anybody can make it. But I’m not blind to the fact that poor people, people of color are at a greater risk of, of being incarcerated. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, so tell me, um, what are, what are some things that you see in the future for your company in regards to art?
Cecilia: Now the problem, coronavirus and stopped everything. But the idea is what we want to do with all our inventory, because we also have a lot of artwork. We plan to go to places and show and showcase. The idea is to put the artwork and I have a catalog of profiles, so people, like the artists can get the creadite of it, like hey, this is a person, there’s a story.
And this is how. Here’s this. We have gotten some beautiful artwork that is like very deep and it has to do a low with a person. So that’s what we want to do with the artwork basically. And that’s of course, put it on t-shirts. We have some t-shirts with artwork, the thing is that have a lot of going on, but the idea is to make more t-shirts with the artwork.
Once we can make events other than showcase the artwork to people.
Kevin: Oh, yeah, that’s amazing. The reason I ask that, you know, we have our postcards. So if you know anyone that wants to get [00:15:00] involved with what we’re doing, let me know, and then we’ll ship them free postcards. We’re working on joint ventures with local jails, and we were putting our books because our postcards, they come in singles and they come in a book called picture me out and we’re putting those books inside of jail stairs.
Okay. Okay. Now there’s another thing we’re doing. We’ve we’ve evolved a little bit and now we’re repurposing the art that we co-created with incarcerated artists across the nation, and some of the best pieces were expanding. To wall size, color, and sheets. And they’re really excited before Kobe started, I have a studio and we brung people in for drinks and music and they would color on the artwork.
Yeah. And again, it gave us an opportunity affinity too, to talk about. What we love so much, and that’s spreading the word about prison reform and about the conditions that our artists are living with. And more importantly, we’re giving them an opportunity to see the value inside of some of these individuals and to remind people of their humanity.
Cecilia: That’s beautiful. You know, I have an idea. I have an idea, Kevin, once this is over and I can travel, maybe we should organize a gallery together. That could be cool.
Kevin: We have to, we have to, I have some amazing artwork and I believe [00:16:30] that I think the public would love that.
Cecilia: Yeah. Because I like the two different approaches and like together we can like, see, like we can express better the message.
Kevin: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And when they, when I seen you guys hit the scene, I’ve always been excited about it. And I’ve been trying to support as much as possible because, because incarceration and art. Go hand in hand. You know, people are, people have always sat down to express themselves once they were locked up.
And so I believe that art can be transformative. I believe that inmates can actually change their lives. Saved lives. That’s his water and our models are changed lives and our change lives. So that’s what we want to do too. So we agree. 100%. One of you were saying, definitely let’s do that. You come up with anything else, just let me know as well.
Cecilia: I want to thank you for your time. So your next time. Okay. Thank you. Bye bye.
This is wife of a lifer