A preacher’s kid turned bank robber is finding redemption behind bars through his art. A self-taught artist, Isaac “Ike” Moody, 29, doodled and took a couple of art classes at Georgetown College in Kentucky, a Baptist-affiliated school where his father, Dwight, an ordained minister, is dean of the chapel. But it wasn’t until his first stint in jail that he became serious about his art.

“Ike found his calling in the most unlikely of circumstances,” the elder Moody told EthicsDaily.com. “Incarceration forced him to focus on something. It brought out his imagination and his talent.”

“Good things can emerge even in the confines of a federal prison,” said the elder Moody, who tells his son’s story to campus and church audiences. He is scheduled to speak at University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., on Feb 20.

An inmate at Big Sandy federal penitentiary in Inez, Ky., Ike Moody is serving a 92-month sentence for bank robbery.

While in prison Moody is not allowed to profit from his artwork, but his father has set up a business, called the Easy Money Poetry Society, to sell his paintings.

Proceeds pay for expenses, such as a Web site, framing and promotion; legal bills and an education loan; and, hopefully, a court-ordered restitution payment. They also allow Dwight Moody to send his son a small amount of spending money each month for incidentals like stamps, cigarettes, snacks, etc. If there is any income above these needs, it will be used to establish a fund to help Ike get back on his feet when he is released from prison on June 29, 2007.

A Web site featuring Ike’s art, www.ikemoody.com, is under construction. During the winter of 2006 his work is on display in an exhibit titled “Contrasts in Light and Darkness: The Human Condition” at Christ Church Cathedral in Lexington, Ky.

That house of worship, ironically, is where Moody hid out briefly after robbing a nearby bank of $5,000 on Aug. 2, 2000. With police on his trail, he was arrested after another stickup five days later at a bank in northern Kentucky.

Not only is redemption is a key theme in the exhibit, but, according to the Art of the Cathedral’s associate gallery director, there is something redemptive about Moody’s journey from thief to artist.

“The world has gone through a lot of stuff right now with war and disasters and so forth,” Jesse Mark said in a story about the exhibit in the Lexington Herald-Leader. “We were trying to find a ray of hope in all of the darkness of the times.”

In a telephone interview from prison, Ike Moody told the newspaper: “Getting involved in art just empties me or fills me up. Whatever I need, it seems to give it to me. For me, it’s the medicine, you know. It’s what gets me through the day.”

Asked why he robbed banks, the article says: “Probably a shrink would say stress, panic, desperation, etc., etc., etc. But I’ve come up with a whole way of describing that. I have a non-traditional decision-making process, and sometimes the dark side wins.”

Much of Moody’s work features inmate life in prison. He makes use of whatever medium is available: ink pen, chalk, pencil, acrylic and often crayon.

His work, including many commissioned pieces, has been purchased by people in Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, New York, California, North Carolina and Washington, D.C.

Dwight Moody said his son wrote him about a month ago, saying, “Three things keep me sane: exercise, art, and humor.”

He runs and exercises every day, the elder Moody said, and his art is the primary vehicle for his humor.

His cell mate for most of four years is a young man from Baltimore nicknamed Woodstock, who also is serving time for bank robbery and is a poet. Themes of bank robbery, art, poetry and friendship led to the name Easy Money Poetry Society. The initials “EMPS” have taken on a life of their own. Moody often embeds them in his art, adding both meaning and whimsy.

Dwight Moody said when the Lexington newspaper reporter asked his son “What is the one thing you want people to know?” Isaac answered, “My address.” (Here’s a link to contact information for Isaac Moody, including what kind of materials he can and cannot receive while in prison.)

The father and son are also collaborating on a book, titled On the Other Side of Oddville, featuring the minister’s old newspaper columns and illustrations by the inmate. It is due out in May from Mercer University Press. (EthicsDaily.com regularly ran Moody’s weekly column on religion in American life until he suspended it in 2004.)

“I certainly regret the pain that I caused people,” Ike Moody said in the Herald-Leader article. “I’m a firm believer that the mirror I broke will be cleaned up with the seven years I’ve put in [in prison].”

He isn’t sure what he wants to do after his release, but hopes to make amends for his past.

“I want my dad to be proud of me,” he said. “All of the artwork I’ve done, each picture is just proof that I’m trying.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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