West Oak Lane: Former Inmate Aims to Inspire Through Art

Jeffrey Glenn Reese held one of his pastel works "Piano Man".
Jeffrey Glenn Reese held one of his pastel works Piano Man.

Jeffrey Glenn Reese, who lives in Mount Airy, began his career as a young graffiti artist in New York City. Now he is an internationally known artist and an inspiration to many.

As an 11-year-old boy, Reese used graffiti as his muse.

“I loved doing graffiti and writing my name on the walls in New York City,” said Reese, who noted that he used to travel through the city with his friends and spray his nickname, Torch, on the subway and the walls during the 1970s.

Reese’s life took a negative turn when he was incarcerated in 1989 for attempted burglary, but he did not let this deter him from becoming successful in art. In fact, he used his 16 months in the Greene Correctional Facility as a catapult to start his career.

“When I got incarcerated, I got real ambitious to paint,” Reese said.

Fortunately for him, the Greene Correctional Facility had an art program that allowed him to use his skills.

“I got there and this jail was specifically geared towards artists. It inspired me,” Reese added.

While incarcerated, Reese began creating pencil graphite drawings of celebrities and jazz musicians, and art gave Reese the ability to re-enter society as a changed man.

Some of Reese's artwork was on display.

“When I got out of jail, I had opportunities to perform for certain venues,” he said.

While in prison, Reese received honorable mention in an art competition. After his release, he was asked to be a judge for that very same contest merely seven to eight months after rejoining society. Currently, Reese devotes his time to helping those less privileged.

“I’m a former homeless person from New York City; now I help individuals that have drug issues, I do workshops with them, I teach an art class entitled ‘Drawing From the Right Side of the Brain,’” Reese said.

The hour-long class is constructed to activate the right side of the brain by using art and giving people an alternative other than drug use. Reese travels to different schools to teach his talents, and some of his most famous works are his portrait of Eartha Kitt, which sold for $12,000 at the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia, and his line drawings, which he became famous for.

Reese uses pure gold, silver and copper markers to create his line drawings, and he employs a method called baked pastel to create other artworks, a process that involves embedding the pastel colors onto the paper with heat and overlaying it with more vibrant colors.

One of Reese's famous line drawings was on display.

Reese has also used art to reach out to the community by doing fundraisers and auctioning off various pieces of his artwork to non-profit organizations. Besides art, Reese also does poetry and writes short stories and essays.

“Art saved my life, poetry as well. I want to be able to leave a legacy of art, poetry, short stories and essays to pass on to the next generation,” Reese said.

In the future, Reese said he aspires to win a Grammy in spoken word and to give back to at-risk youth and people that are challenged in life.

“Prison saved my life; now I live to use art as a medium to connect with the community,” Reese said.

His art work can be seen at Victoria’s Kitchen at 7304 Ogontz Ave. and online at www.jeffreyglennreese.org.


  1. Jeff,

    It’s Cinzia from Grand St. In Albany. My heart is filled with joy to see you doing so well! Love you forever!

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