Monday, March 23, 2009

Lori Waselchuk: Grace Before Dying


Photographer Lori Waselchuk Launches Traveling Exhibit Grace Before Dying at Angola Prison April 3rd, 2009

Angola, Louisiana (March 6, 2009) – Louisiana’s maximum-security prison in Angola, LA is the backdrop for the launch of Lori Waselchuk’s exhibition Grace Before Dying, an award-winning photo essay that chronicles the Louisiana State Penitentiary’s Hospice Program. The exhibition launches on Friday, April 3 at 11:00 a.m., marking the beginning of a year-long traveling show that will be exhibited at correctional facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Grace Before Dying tells the story of a nationally recognized prison hospice program in which the hospice volunteers and the patients are serving long-term prison sentences. The program was created in 1998 at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola at the request of Warden Burl Cain. Prison officials say that the program has helped to transform one of the most violent prisons in the South into one of the least violent maximum-security institutions in the United States. Waselchuk spent two years photographing the program. The result is an eye-opening and moving portrayal of prisoners that goes far beyond the stereotypes.

Melody Eschete, LSP’s Hospice Coordinator says, “Grace offers hope that our lives need not be defined by our worst acts.” The hospice volunteers must go through a difficult process to bury their regrets and fears, and unearth their capacity to love. Grace Before Dying looks at how the inmates assert and affirm their humanity in an environment constructed to isolate and punish.”

Grace Before Dying continues to garner awards and recognition, winning the PhotoNOLA Review Prize in 2007 (New Orleans). It was a finalist in the Aperture West Book Prize (2008) and has been nominated for the Santa Fe Prize for Photography (2009).

In addition to photography, the exhibition will feature two large quilts made by the Angola Prison Hospice Volunteer Quilters. The Quilters support Angola’s hospice program through quilt sales and quilt raffles. The work of the Quilters has become a favorite attraction at the semi-annual Angola Prison Rodeo. The Volunteer Quilters also make blankets and pillows for the hospice patients.

The portable panels and quilts were designed for easy installation and travel. The project will travel to correctional facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana through 2010. Waselchuk is proud that the exhibition audiences will primarily be inmates and staff at prisons in the two states. “I hope that this traveling exhibition will both inspire and inform correctional staff, inmates, and their families about the far-reaching benefits of end-of-life care in prison,” Waselchuk says.

This exhibition is supported by a Distribution Grant from the Documentary Photography Project of the Open Society Institute. Additional sponsors include: Louisiana-Mississippi Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (LMHPCO), the Louisiana State Prison Museum, and Moonshine Studio. The launch is free and open to the public. For more information about the exhibition or its launch please contact:

Lori Waselchuk
(225) 907-6695

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