As a means of dealing with the stress of incarceration and the COVID-19 pandemic, a San Quentin prisoner creates and donates art to children with cancer.
“I do my art to keep me busy, so that I can think positive,” said Manuel Flores.
Flores’ art portrays heart-shaped frames of Jesus and baby shoes that can be hung around people’s necks, in vehicles, or displayed in a prison cell.
Incarcerated since 1981, 75-year-old Flores has spent approximately eight years at San Quentin, creating picture frames and jewelry boxes made out of paper. He began his artistic creations in a prison hobby shop. When the hobby shop closed, however, he continued creating art—for the past 35 years.
“The benefits for me are the ‘Hellos’ and the responses that I get about my art from people in the outside world,” Flores said.
The soft-spoken Flores points out how fortunate he is to be able to donate his art to organizations for children with cancer. He sends the art to his nephews and they deliver it to hospitals or sell the items to their neighbors or to church, donating the profits to Children’s Hospitals, mostly in the Oakland, California area.
Humility, he said, comes from his knowledge that children should not be suffering or dying from such an “evil disease.”
“We need to do more than just sit around in our cells watching TV,” Flores said.
His devotion to his craft is evident as he sits quietly against a fence in the yard, working and feeding the birds. He receives multiple orders for his work, and at times has difficulty coming up with ideas for his multitude of orders.
“I’ve been in prison for almost 30 years, and I have never met someone who is devoted to making a change in the lives of children like Flores. This is why I purchased some of the items from Flores,” said Luis Lopez, a San Quentin prisoner.
Flores is enthusiastic about completing as many projects as possible.
“If I ever get to parole from prison I want to open my own business on leathering and craft-smith to teach the trade to my relatives in Mexico so they won’t be working the fields for nothing,” said Flores.
Flores would like to continue donating to children with cancer even after prison. He would like to bring this attribution to his relatives, as they will be earning a living making leather belts and wallets, a trade that he learned while incarcerated at Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy.
“I have robbed my community of many things in the past; now I want to live the rest of my life by giving back to the innocent ones,” said Flores. “No child should be deprived of having a sunny day in their lives.”