From prison to young achiever

From prison to young achiever

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Christopher Dolkens participated in the prisoners Justice and Equity Through Art program and is now named semifinalist of the Young Achiever Awards.

A young artist has taken the huge leap from spending time in prison to a life aimed at success.

Life prior to prison was chaotic for Christopher Dolkens and it was only when he was incarcerated that the young artist saw an opportunity to change and leave behind some of his biggest fears.

The 27-year-old artist has been named as a semi-finalist in the Young Achievers Awards for the Arts and Culture category this year after putting together a series of unique artworks since 2017.

“Deep down I feel that there are not a lot of things that I have truly achieved or completed in my life,” he said.

“Winning this prestigious award would be the acknowledgement that I was searching for in my past.”

Whilst serving 13 months on drug charges, Mr Dolkens was able to participate in the Justice and Equity Through Art (JETA) program, which is a fine arts program in partnership with Curtin University that provides prisoners with a pathway to compete a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Despite not having any background in drama, Mr Dolkens said the arts program helped him push out of his comfort zone.

“Before being convicted and incarcerated, I used art and drawing as a form of meditation to deal with the stress of not knowing what was going to happen to me,” he said.

“The art I was producing was mainly a way to fill a void of negative thoughts and emotions. I never thought that it could be considered as proper ‘artwork’.”

After completing the program and his parole in 2018, Mr Dolkens started university and found himself at a very difficult time as he struggled to fit in back into society.

“Although the JETA program was a segue for me into university, the program did not help me cope with the anxiety of loneliness and isolation and an ever-present fear of failure,” he said.

“I was lucky to have a JETA tutor to guide me through my first year and this helped with my anxiety and fears.”

Although Mr Dolkens struggled to find himself in the past, today he is happy to identify himself as a passionate, determined and ambitious individual.

He enjoys printmaking and creating experiences of chaos through various installations.

Some of his best work includes etchings he produced while he was channelling and accepting some of the feelings he had from his time in prison.

After this project he also explored the protests in Hong Kong and created an installation that gave the audience the impression of what it feels like to be around chaos.

“What I have been through has given me a deeper understanding into other people’s struggles and has inspired me to give back to people going through a similar situation,” he said.

“As they say, you would not be who you are without your past experiences.”

Mr Dolkens is now studying abroad in the United States through a Curtin University program, intending to pursue an acting career.

He is also working on a community project bringing acting workshops and speakers out to prisons in California