Drawn Together: Dogs, Art, and Inmates
Eyes Ears Nose & Paws (EENP) is a local nonprofit agency founded in 2008 with the mission to partner people with dogs to improve lives. In 2014, EENP started a partnership with the NC correctional system called At Both Ends of the Leash (ABEL). Through ABEL, EENP teaches inmates to train assistance dogs that are then partnered with people who have disabilities. This is a triple win: the dogs get full-time attention, training, and love; the inmates develop interpersonal, leadership, and job skills while giving back to the community despite their incarceration; and the clients receive life-changing support for their disabilities in the form of a highly trained canine partner.
For the ABEL trainers, the program often starts as just a job working with dogs but it grows into an opportunity for intense self-discovery and connection. ABEL teaches skills needed to train assistance dogs that will help improve the lives of EENP clients. By design, it also gives the inmate-trainers an opportunity to connect with each other and the outside community to improve their own lives.
It is through this connection that “Drawn Together” was conceived. An ABEL trainer who is a gifted illustrator was inspired through his work in ABEL to turn to EENP dogs as subjects. He was drawn to the challenge of capturing and sharing their emotional connection. As he drew the dogs, he donated his portraits to EENP with hope that they could be used to further EENP’s mission.
These portraits form the basis of “Drawn Together” and will be featured along with art by others working in and with ABEL. The artwork will be accompanied by narrative text from the ABEL trainers about their experiences in the program and photos of EENP dogs and the ABEL trainers, spotlighting the talents, care, and effort the trainers give in their quest to help others.
The community is invited to join EENP for this pop-up art benefit to learn more about the ABEL program and how EENP’s dogs connect the worlds inside and out of prison, and support this work through purchase of artwork. Original artwork as well as prints will be available for sale with all proceeds benefitting EENP’s ABEL program.