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"Imaginal Cell”
Commissioned Sculpture in the Chagrin Arts Garden of Hope  
by acclaimed artist and OIP Client, Dean Gillispie


The Artist

An imaginal cell is the cell of a caterpillar that transforms the body of the caterpillar to the body of the butterfly during the period that it is housed in the chrysalis or cocoon.  

But the term imaginal cell also has significance because Dean spent 20 years of his life in a prison cell for crimes he did not commit.  In his cell, he spent hours working on dioramas made with contraband and found objects, painting beautiful and symbolic portraits, and escaping into music and lyrics.

With the help of the Ohio Innocence Project, Dean was exonerated by the State of Ohio.  In his freedom, Dean has continued to show the world his many talents.  He has been a featured artist in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and his works have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and many other publications.  But Dean is most proud to have been featured in AirStream Life, which showcased him and Soulshine, an Airstream that he painstakingly restored to glory over the span of a year.

Dean is now a member of the Board of Advisors of the Ohio Innocence Project, a tireless advocate to end wrongful conviction, and a friend to every innocent man and woman who was imprisoned.  

He continues to make the world a better and more beautiful place for all of us.

The Work

Imaginal Cell is set in limestone blocks.   Limestone is known to symbolize innocence and is believed to have healing properties, to ground and center people, and to bring positive thought and healing.  

The sculpture begins as discarded shipping chains, the strongest of all chains, used to hold vessels steady in dangerous winds and waves.  

The Ohio Innocence Project incorporates the butterfly in its logo, and 34 butterflies – one for each of the men and women who have been freed through OIP’s work – arise from the chains in the sculpture.  The butterflies are made of stainless steel, which was chosen for its strength, its ability to reflect light, and its power to resist corrosive and damaging elements.

Imaginal Cell is a testament to the talent, strength, and passion of its creator, and the movement to free the wrongfully convicted in Ohio and throughout the world. 

Dean and the Ohio Innocence Project are proud to partner with Chagrin arts in a variety of programming that opens people’s hearts and minds to understanding wrongful conviction, the devastation it causes in individuals, families, and communities, and to showcase the resilience, strength, courage, and talents of OIP’s clients.

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