20 Jan Valentino Dixon, Artist and Exoneree, to Speak at Otterbein University
Otterbein University will host a discussion with acclaimed artist, exoneree, smart justice activist, and art therapy advocate Valentino Dixon and his daughter, Valentina Dixon, an elementary-school teacher in Columbus, at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28. The discussion, “Creativity as Inspiration and Healing,” will explore the journey of Valentino, his 27 years of wrongful incarceration, its impact on his daughter, and the role that art played in securing his freedom.
The online event is free and open the public. Register at Eventbrite.
The discussion accompanies an exhibition of his work on display through Jan. 29 at Otterbein’s Stichweh Gallery, 33 CollegeviewRoad, Westerville. Hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday through Sunday. The exhibition is free and open to the public.
Valentino was sentenced in Buffalo, N.Y., to more than 38 years in prison for a murder he did not commit when his daughter, Valentina, was an infant. The two maintained a close relationship over the years, and he watched as she worked hard and earned her bachelor’s degree from Otterbein in 2014.
During his time in prison, Valentino turned to drawing portraits of African Americans and black freedom fighters, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and Nelson Mandela, to cope with his wrongful imprisonment. The artist began creating golf scenes when the warden at Attica asked Valentino to draw the 12th hole of the Augusta National Golf Club. He completed the drawing by looking at a picture clipped from a Golf Digest magazine.
His pictures brought his story to national news in 2012, when he was featured in Golf Digest’s “Golf Saved My Life” column by Max Adler. Despite the recognition, Valentino remained imprisoned for another six years, as many in the nation became aware of his wrongful imprisonment.
His artwork depicting golf courses around the nation has received national attention since it was featured in Golf Digest in 2012. As a result of the attention, three Georgetown University undergraduate students re-investigated Valentino’s case and created a documentary that prompted prosecutors to review his case in 2018. Late that year, another man pleaded guilty to the murder.
Valentino was exonerated on Sept. 29, 2018, and stepped onto a golf course for the first time one month later. Today, he travels the country as a motivational speaker and social justice activist. He hosts an online show called “Draw and Talk with Me,” was nominated for two Emmy awards, and received a Gold Medal from the Vatican. In 2020, Michelle Obama bought one of Valentino’s paintings as a Christmas present for her husband, former President Barack Obama.
Ben Willis, also a 2014 graduate of Otterbein, will interview the father and daughter about the wrongful incarceration, its impact on their relationship and lives, and the role that art played in securing Valentino’s freedom.