ALBANY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – When the phrase, “old jail” comes to mind, odds are, you’re not exactly picturing art. But in Albany, a building that once housed inmates in the 1800s, has become home to many incredible art pieces residents take pride in.

Upon entering The Old Jail Art Center, there’s only the silence that Director of Education for the center, Erin Whitmore, describe as calmness the art brings.

“It’s beauty, it’s inspiration, it’s distraction and it’s creation,” Whitmore listed.

That’s now. But back in the 1800s when the building was a jail, you’d likely hear more noises of cell doors opening and closing, as well as rattling chains from prisoners.

One prisoner, John Hayden, left a permanent mark on this building, by carving his name into the wall – a part of the history you can still see today. This building stopped being a jail in the 1920s, when two cousins from Albany inherited the building. They had the idea to form a museum and use the old jail structure. Since then, this art center has shocked people who have visited – like Whitmore. 

“I was absolutely floored when I arrived,” Whitmore described.

While working for a museum in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Whitmore said she heard of a job opening at the art center in Albany and decided to pay it a visit. Although she described it as being in the middle of nowhere, she said she was amazed by the artwork it housed.

Whitmore now works at this museum, teaching others to be excited about art through using the exhibits in the historical building. 

Executive Director of the museum, Patrick Kelly, spoke to the uniqueness of where the structure sits:

“We’re out in the middle of almost nowhere,” Kelly said, “in a town of 2,000 people.”

Visitors get to see the old jail structure and artwork, which changes three times a year. There, Kelly said anybody can find a piece that speaks to them.

Whitmore and Kelly said they work to educate all who come through, by showing mainly contemporary works of art. They told KTAB/KRBC the community takes immense pride in knowing this museum with so much history belongs to Albany.

“Most people are shocked of the size, the space, and the quality of the exhibitions and programs,” explained Kelly. 

However, Whitmore said she wants others from all over to come experience what this museum has to offer, “Art enriches your life. It helps us see how other people see.”

Whitmore explained how art is especially needed during the hard times we all go through – to teach us and to calm us. She said the center has a motto; “Art for All,” and they don’t even want money to hinder that. For that reason, all admission is free. No one has to pay to see the art. The art center is completely supported by the community and others who believe in its work. 

You can visit The Old Jail Art Center at 201 South 2nd Street, in Albany. Free admission is available 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.