Write a Letter to a Prisoner
Artist Benjamin Wills has come to understand what a few lines in a letter – or just the arrival of mail – can mean to someone behind bars and separated from society. The Kansas City-based artist has penned thousands of such notes over the years, and in return, he says, “I have repeatedly read, ‘Your letter was the first I’ve received.’ Or, ‘This is the first time was name was called at mail call.’ ”
In the Library’s first-floor Guldner Gallery, amid a collection of personalized paper airplanes submitted by inmates and featured in Wills’ popular exhibit Airplanes, he leads a special letter-writing session in which the public can join him in that correspondence. “America's incarcerated population is growing, often neglected, and eager to communicate,” he says. “This event presents a positive platform for their expression.”
He uses the website WriteAPrisoner.com to identify incarcerated individuals to whom participants can write. Airplanes, which has drawn more than 5,000 visitors since going on display at the Central Library in mid-January, arose from a single paper airplane sent to Wills by an inmate and his invitation to others to forward their own. The exhibit closes Sunday, March 31.