Can Art Save Lives? – Yuri Kadamov

Can Art Save Lives? I can tell you this: it’s saving mine every day.

I am a Lithuanian citizen under a sentence of death for crimes I did not commit as a result of an unfair trial replete with false testimony and misleading arguments. My case is currently on appeal. I am the only citizen of any European Union nation to be on federal death row in the U.S.

Prior to my incarceration, I was a musician. I played in a few bands as a drummer. But once behind bars, I had to find an alternative for my creativity and so I took up drawing and painting. I would be mentally starving without an outlet for my artistry. It is my art that keeps me grounded and sane. Given that I have been in solitary for more than 20 years, art is like a mental shower for me, that I must take every day.

I never know from month to month what types of art supplies I will be able to obtain. Since 2015, there has been a 30% mark-up on the arts supplies available for purchase, and the prices increase each year. What I am able to purchase one time, may not be available the next time. Both the lack of materials and uncertainty affect the art I create.

Most often, the medium I employ is graphite and colored pencils because they are the easiest for me to obtain. I also work in water-soluble wax pastels. When I paint, I use acrylics because I am not allowed to use oil-based paints, but painting is difficult to do now because the prison recently confiscated paint brushes, deeming them a security risk. When I cannot obtain canvas, I work with paper.

Some of my favorite artistic experiences have been the result of collaboration with other artists. I have collaborated with artists in Lithuania, Great Britain, Australia, and the United States, as well as with some of my fellow prisoners.

One of my overarching goals is to collaborate with both a sculptor and animator who can render some of my art pieces from “Our Kind of Society” series into sculptures and animation. I have some ideas that can be implemented with help from people in the free world.

More than anything, I’d like to get more people involved with a project I started: Art Against Death, a collaboration of artists and non-artists from various international communities who unite to stand against murder for any reason, whether committed in the name of politics or revenge or religion. The idea for this project was conceived from the increasing media reports of murder being committed for said reasons in 2010-2011 and now! I started this project with Rejon Taylor and other fellow prisoners to show that people with different races, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and cultures can come together for positive reasons.

For more information about Art Against Death, go to my website: For more information about Rejon Taylor, fellow him on Instagram: @rejon_taylor.


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