Through her nonprofit, Kings and Queens of Art, Gwendolyn Garth uses her passion for the arts to help former convicts navigate the intimidating path of transition and rehabilitation. Kings and Queens of Art caters to artisans by providing resources such as gallery space, art supplies, and opportunities to teach and network with other creators, thus enhancing their professional development.
“My childhood dream was to become an artist. This was a dream that I tucked away into a corner of my soul, and I carried this dream with me throughout the twists and turns of my life’s journey,” explains Garth.
Born and raised in Cleveland, Garth has a story to tell that should be heard. Once convicted of a felony, she says that the only aspect of prison she appreciated was the time she spent alone to discover who she really was. “I came to realize and understand that before my physical incarceration, I had been operating in a self prison long before the physical one,” explains Garth, who celebrated 21 years of sobriety this past year.
During incarceration, Garth found the courage to excavate a hidden childhood dream and exercise her artistic abilities. “I had the opportunity to sell my artwork while incarcerated. I figured if I could make a living here, then I could do the same when released,” she recalls.
Not only did she create a new life for herself, but in 2014, Garth decided to empower others who were formerly incarcerated by launching Kings and Queens of Art. The unique organization’s vision is to enable reentering citizens to participate in community revitalization.
With locations located in Glenville and downtown Cleveland, the organization helps artists to creatively enhance their neighborhoods through developing instructor curriculums and by providing artwork for events and community murals. Beginning in February, Kings and Queens of Arts also plans to offer airbrush and jewelry making classes for senior citizens.
Gwendolyn Garth has evolved into a city leader and activist. A member of the Ohio Prisons Art Connection and a trustee on the board of Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, she also served four years as an art specialist for the City of Cleveland’s Division of Recreation. Garth successfully reminds us all that it is never too late to live the life of our dreams.
Former President Barack Obama once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Garth holds those words close to her heart. She is the change, working to help herself and others through the healing power of art.
To purchase artwork by the Kings and Queens of Art, contact Garth by phone at 216.339.0571 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.