Arts Capacity helps people in need through the power of art, culture, communication, and live music to cope with challenges and develop the capacity to experience change for good.
What We Do
Today, Arts Capacity’s caring, interactive recital approach brings legitimate culture, much of it new, to the prison environment. Prisoners are treated respectfully as people who can appreciate art. We care more about their feelings and insights than our own, promoting the arts for its ability to re-humanize, restore, and reconcile persons living in stressful and de-humanizing conditions.
Our focus is:
- on the listener, not on the performers;
- on what the prisoner wants to hear, not on what artist wants to play;
- the long-term benefit of the prisoner, not our self-gratification.
Who We Are: Board of Directors
Arts Capacity was launched to benefit incarcerated persons who are good at reading people, spotting phonies a mile off. They will think or even ask, “Why are you here?” To be seen as trustworthy our replies must be immediate, thoughtful, and succinct.
“During a dinner conversation with Holly, we learned of her interest in the healing power of classical music. Later, we had the opportunity to attend her recital at Walker State Faith and Character Prison, in which she played violin and invited prisoners to respond with their thoughts. The responses to Holly and her music were inspirational. In follow up conversations with Holly and others, who are now Board members, we learned of the desire of other musicians to bring their music to people in need of healing. By our participation in Arts Capacity, we hope to support Holly and other musicians to realize their vision to use their music as a healing medium.”
– Bill McDonald, President
“I am involved with Arts Capacity because I believe in the vision to use the arts as a means to bring healing and hope to prisoners and others facing hard times and challenges. Furthermore, I wish to live out my responsibility as a Christian to care for the needy and the outcast. The unique interactive recital approach used by the musicians promotes the arts for its ability to re-humanize, restore, and reconcile persons living under duress. Arts Capacity’s focus is: a) on the listener, not on the performer; b) on what the target audience needs to hear, not on what artist wants to play; and c) the long-term benefit of the listeners, not our personal gratification.”
– Alan Bonderud, Vice President
“As incarcerated people prepare for reentry into society, they are given tools. These tools sometimes include training in a trade or learning how to succeed in job interviews. But often, the most important tools are overlooked in preparing people’s return into society. With Arts Capacity, my vision is to share tools that allow people to access their own emotions, creativity, and humanity that will empower them and help them succeed as free citizens. By sharing music and culture, the goal to help people find a coping mechanism or emotional outlet is a powerful way to re-humanize a population that will eventually be our future neighbors.”
– Holly Mulcahy, Founder and Secretary
“When my dear friend Holly first described her experience at Walker State Prison, I knew immediately the initiative was something I very much wanted to be a part of. Giving of my time and talent has always come easily, so it seemed natural to want to share the gift that was given to me.
But why would I want to share my music with those who were incarcerated?
That was exactly the question that was posed at our last (and my first) recital at Walker. An inmate approached the microphone as we concluded our presentation asking, “Why do you come here? We are outcasts, despised and forgotten by society. Why would you want to come here when you could be anywhere else?”
For more than one reason: These men reveal emotions and a vulnerability in a environment that discourages such displays. Exposing these men to ‘high art’, giving them coping mechanisms and new ways of processing their feelings, will be instrumental (!) to their futures. Many of these men will be returning to their various communities with tools to create better lives for themselves and for their families.
The greatest privilege? Being able to restore a man’s sense of humanness, even if just for an hour, is its own reward.”
– Mary Corbett, Board Member
“I am involved in Arts Capacity because I saw, firsthand, the impact music had on the prisoners at Walker State Faith and Character Based Prison. I saw them respond to the beauty and emotion of music, the questions it raised in their minds and how it brought the outside world into their very inside world. As much as I think they got out of it, I got just as much – if not more – seeing how expressive and articulate these men are and how much goodness and compassion exists here.
‘Arts for All’ is a very popular concept in the art world these days. While most organizations point to rural or inner-city areas, the prison population may be the most underserved we have. Art is not just a luxury. Art is a necessity that helps define humanity. It is clear that the music Holly brings helps these men feel a part of the world, part of the human race. It offers them hope – something I suspect may be a rare experience in the prison system. I’m both humbled and excited to be a part of it and look forward to see what the future brings as we expand this amazing program.”
– Kimberly Gavin, Board Member