A HEART FOR GLASS: My Linkage Workshop Experience

by Flint Kougar

April 15, 2023 - The morning was perfect for travel and the climate was ripe for learning as I set off on my Saturday adventure.

I'd never been to Charlotte, Michigan. I'd never attempted the centuries old medium of stained glass. I'd never gotten classy headshots photographed by a seasoned professional. Those "nevers" were soon to be laid to rest and give way to wonders and memories.

As I entered through the backdoor of the Windwalker Underground Gallery, I spoke a silent prayer in my spirit as my mother long ago suggested I do upon entering any church for the first time.

Greeted by fellow members and organizers of the Prisoner Creative Arts Project's Linkage Community, I immediately felt at home. Family is a more definitive expression for this group.  

Sarah Hebert-Johnson was the first of my Sisters in Art to greet me. Then, Sarah Unrath, my Champion of PCAP. They have helped to keep the
Lifeblood of Creativity pumping through my veins since my release back into the wild.

First order of business- Coffee and pastries! As we meeted and greeted our filtered in compatriots, this historic building filled with a plethora of procurement became our stomping ground for a day.

For Johnny Van Patten and his son, Brandon, this was truly a Residency. A safe haven where creative spirits could pour their souls out on stage, display their vision on the walls, or, as we have done this day- broaden our horizons and sharpen our skill sets as iron sharpens iron. This day, we were in a "glass of our own."

William Reichle, artist and owner of Hypmatizarism Glass LLC, was our esteemed instructor for this stained glass workshop. A young man of
great patience, he proved as adept in the teaching process as in his craft. Though our group ranged from being very proficient and knowledgeable themselves to having physical challenges and zero experience (including myself in the latter), William sought to ensure that we all received ample assistance and enjoyed the experience.

We each got to choose or design our own patterns and pick from a wide selection of colored and textured glass. Another facet of this jewel of a day included the expertise of one Adolfo Cruz Jr., photographer and owner of Uptown 24 Studio, LLC.

One by one, those who wished to have their image immortalized in classic black & white headshots did so. Adolfo was as open to suggestions as he was giving his honest and creative input. Upon seeing my own photos, I am convinced he could make anyone appear as glamorous as a celebrity.

The caterers across the street were nothing short of fabulous. Lunch was delicious, and combined with a casual conversation on the business of what direction the PCAP Linkage Community should take moving forward. I felt that even if nothing was written in stone, headway was made, voices were heard, and we all seemed yet closer and more unified.

Back to our tables, time is never on our side. I felt blessed that I could assist some in need and still complete my project. My very first  Stained Glass!

I know I'm not alone in saying that each creative gathering such as this leaves us with more than just a piece of artwork. The experience will radiate light through treasured memories throughout our lives.

"Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney sparked my fire for poetry, story, and song at an early age. An auntie school teacher added some kindling along the way. Adolescent angst and hormonal romance tossed firecrackers into the blaze, and some serious study of some masterful wordsmiths in college shot fireworks into the heavens of my literary soul. The resulting embers of English within me continue to crackle whenever stoked or provoked to burn. My muse likes it hot, and I can't say I disagree."  -Kirk Fitchett (aka Flint Kougar)

Article is made possible by the Linkage Community Journalism Initiative.

Photography by Adolfo Cruz Jr. @ uptown24studio.com

Release Date: 05/22/2023
Tags: Prison Creative Arts Project