Since 2011, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has partnered with the Mecklenburg Co. Sheriff's Office to provide hands-on art-making courses at Jail Central and Jail North. Working with both youth and adult residents, Bechtler-trained teaching artists and staff conduct up to 12 week-long residencies throughout the year and explore the works of several artists from the collection as well as many social and personal themes. The artwork created as part of this program is part of a rotating exhibition located in the museum's lobby that highlights all of our community programs.

Teaching artist and Bechtler staff member, Mykel Gates Jamil, leads these specially-designed classes.

The COVID19 crisis has presented challenges for all, virtual programs like these have allowed the Bechtler to continue to reach underserved and under-resourced populations and offer space for self-expression, creativity, and joy. 

Mixed Media Artist Books Inspired by the 1 Cent Life Portfolio (2020)

In partnership with Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office (MCSO), the Bechtler offered residents at Detention Center Central the opportunity to participate in week-long virtual book-making residencies during the fall of 2020. Art kits with materials and lesson plans were delivered to the facility prior to instruction and Bechtler staff virtually led each residency with the aid of onsite Detention Center Central staff. Students explored the portfolio, 1 Cent Life, conceptualized by Chinese-American artist and poet, Walasse Ting, and learned about the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. 1 Cent Life contains sixty-two original lithographs by twenty-eight artists in addition to sixty-one poems written by Ting. Students drew upon the varied artistic styles represented in the portfolio to inspire their own artist books, using mixed media, illustration, abstraction, and free verse poetry techniques. Taking the theme of “Past, Present, and Future,”, each participant created an artist book and portfolio envelope with unique imagery and poetry. During class, students were able to express themselves and reported feeling less stress and tension, contributing to an overall improvement in the facility atmosphere affecting staff and residents.

Jail Arts: Social Justice Art Project (2020)

Participants were asked to work in groups to complete an art project on the topic of social justice reform. Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) staff lead the class and students used the Bechtler craft kits along with additional collage material to create posters illustrating what social justice means to them. On the first day of class, the video below was played for all participants to watch, and then they got to work. The project was completed 4 days later and presented to MCSO and Bechtler staff in person and via zoom.

Jail Ceramic Art Project (2019-2020)

In partnership with Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office (MCSO), the Bechtler offered residents in Detention Center Central and DC North the opportunity to participate in week-long ceramic residencies throughout 2019-2020. This is the first time residents have been given the opportunity to work with clay. The majority of participants had no prior ceramic experience, which gave them a chance to explore and learn a new skill. Inspired by Bechtler collection artist, Pablo Picasso, the participants were prompted to create a simple utilitarian vessel, using basic building techniques, including coils, slabs, and slipping and scoring. The vessels could then evolve into more ambitious forms such as pitchers and lidded jars, where decorative motifs of animals, faces, figures, and geometric designs can be seen. Participants thoroughly enjoyed the hands-on nature of the project allowing them to focus their energy on creation and self-expression. Residencies such as these help lower tension and stress in the facility while increasing positive connections between staff and participants.


It was beautiful to share my feelings with my companions. The teachers brought a wonderful vibe with them and it really helped me to pass my time here. I really enjoyed this class because it took me to a peaceful place. - Participant

The Bechtler programs at Jail North provide underserved youth with invaluable experiences that teach art, culture and behavioral management techniques. The Bechtler has been and continues to be an innovator with these endeavors and the community thrives because of them. - Community Partner: Keith Cradle, Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, Adolescent Program Manager 

I don’t usually like programs but yours is different. I can actually see a change in the inmates’ behavior. I don’t have to yell at them to get up, shower or adjust their attitudes. Each one is ready, standing in line thirty minutes before class is called. - Jail Staff

“I turn 18 in a couple weeks,” said the youthful offender, fear and sadness in his eyes as he anticipated joining the adult population, “But you are here now, in art class and when you go to Jail Central I will be there and so will your creativity,” I reminded him and he smiled. Art is therapeutic. When you are focused on creating you can focus on nothing else. - Staff and Participant


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ex © 2023 Bechtler Museum of Modern Art All images and content copyright. All rights reserved. Credits: Design: MODE. Artwork Photography: JoAnn Sieburg-Baker, David Ramsey General Photography: Eric Bahrs, Mitchell Kearney, Gary O'Brien, Nancy Pierce, Maxim Vakhovskiy Copywriting: Pam Davis Charlotte Skyline Photo: courtesy of Visit Charlotte School of Paris: John Boyer (Copy), MODE (Design)
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