Art as a Means of Escape

student smiling

Minneapolis College student Deborah UpChurch won the Phi Theta Kappa Art Contest earlier this month. UpChurch is pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice.  After graduating in December of this year she will continue her studies at Metropolitan State University for a Bachelor’s Degree in the same field.

“I plan to work with the Innocence Project,” said UpChurch. The Innocence Project is a non-profit dedicated to helping free those who were wrongfully incarcerated by overturning their conviction using DNA testing and criminal justice reform. The contest winner also mentioned that prior to attending the College, she worked as a police officer in Chicago. “I’ve worked on the other side locking up criminals, but now I want to work on freeing innocent people.”

While working as a police officer in Chicago, UpChurch began drawing to relieve stress.

“I started doodling, then I started painting,” said UpChurch. UpChurch said she was mainly self-taught in the beginning. “I didn’t take any classes until I attended Minneapolis College. Gregory Rose was my first teacher.”

UpChurch decided to enter the art contest after receiving an email from the Phi Theta Kappa right after the College transitioned to online learning because of COVID-19.  

“I was at home and it was during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was working on a piece and it was entitled ‘Feeling Blue,’” said UpChurch. She said receiving the email for the contest was “perfect timing.” The email said the theme for the contest is works of art surrounding the pandemic.

 "We were asked to explain how we were feeling during this time of social distancing. I was honest, and explained that even though I was feeling blue, I am fortunate enough to have my art as a means of escape; and a way to express myself during this pandemic, and at all times,” said UpChurch.