Demetro Rodrequez never painted until he got to Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
But he is already an exhibited artist. His pleasant, intriguing oil painting, "Girl with a Rabbit," hangs in the "Culture From Inside" exhibition, now installed in the lobby hallway of the General Services Administration building at 18th and F streets NW.
The paintings, drawings, photographs and some pottery were submitted by prisoners in some of the 60 institutions participating in a nation-wide prison art program called Project CULTURE (Creative Use of Leisure Time Under Restrictive Environments).
It is one of the regularly scheduled exhibits in GSA's Living Buildings program. The GSA lobby's long, wide hallway -- with bright natural light streaming in -- is perfect for a quick glance or a longer browse.
There is lots of color -- sometimes too much. And there are lots of outdoor scenes -- mountains, deserts, oceans. There are some abstract works and some rather sophisticated watercolor and pen-and-ink works but more are scenes and portraits.
"The art ranges from professional to very amateurish," said Lou Jones, and owner/member of the Foundry Galery, who was hired to coordinate the show. "But it's all a statement about the artist."
This is the second national exhibit sponsored by Project CULTURE -- headquartered in College Park, administered by the American Correctional Association, and funded through the Justice Department's Law Enforcement Assistant Administration.
"The aim of the project is to lower tension levels in prison," said Jones, "not to make everybody a great artist."
Project CULTURE has hired about 300 professional artists to go into the prisions to teach, according to Jones.
Most of the art is for sale through the Foundry Gallery, which takes no commission. Prices range from $25 to $750, and some pieces are already sold. "The checks are sent directly to the immates," said Jones.
The exhibit -- closed on weekends -- continues through May 24.