Erika’s Story

A painting a city landscape with planes and people in the clouds around some skyscrapers.

From Koestler Awards Entrant to Mentee

It is hard to express how valuable the Koestler Awards are, not just to my journey, but to so many others who have submitted work into the Awards Scheme.

The first year I was in HMP Holloway I found out about the Koestler Awards too late to enter. However, this gave me motivation to produce work for the following year’s awards. I spent a long time waiting and scavenging art materials to produce some work and was rewarded with a Gold, Bronze and First-Time Entrant Award. The fact that I then sold my painting was a great boost to my confidence.

I was also extremely privileged to be accepted onto the Koestler Mentoring scheme following my release from custody. Matched with a mentor, I visited galleries and discussed my own practice and how I might utilise my skills in the future in the workplace. This was a great bridge in my effort to rebuild my confidence and seek meaningful work for my future.

In my third year of entering the awards I again was fortunate enough to have some of my works exhibited in the annual London Exhibition, one of which was a collection of postcards which I had drawn, one every day of my incarceration, to document my story. This exposure has resulted in many freelance commissions.

The experience that I have gained from working with Koestler Arts over these past few years has been invaluable for my journey from prisoner to a working, contributing member of the community.

Download Erika’s full story here

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