On Oct. 9, more than 300 Eastern students, faculty and staff, as well as emeriti faculty, alumni and local residents were treated to an evening on the healing power of the arts by Canadian blues artist Rita Chiarelli and best-selling author Wally Lamb. The two guests filled the Betty R. Tipton room with a multi-media glimpse into the lives of inmates of two different prisons in Louisiana and Connecticut. Chiarelli was the inspiration and facilitator for the documentary, "Music in the Big House," which showed how the music ministry at Angola Prison in Louisana--"the birthplace of the blues" is bringing redemption and healing to the prison population there. Many of the inmates are serving life terms without the hope of parole, and several have been at Angola more than 30 years. Through their music and testimony, they told a moving story of remorse, forgiveness, hope, and love.
Following two musical selections off the soundtrack she recorded for Music from the Big House," Chiarelli was joined on stage by Lamb, who has been volunteering for the past 14 years at York Prison in Niantic. Through two collections of writings by the female inmates of the prison, Lamb has helped the women to find an avenue for their anger and repressed feelings while also shedding light on the plight of the prisoners there. It was fitting and uplifting, Lamb noted, that earlier that day, long-time inmate Bonnie Foreshaw had been granted clemency for a 1986 murder, after serving more than 27 years in jail.