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A Detroit artist unjustly imprisoned for decades becomes an unlikely art phenomenon

The unjustly imprisoned artist achieved success

After being wrongly imprisoned for 46 years, the Detroit artist achieved great success


It would be easy to mistake Detroit artist Richard Phillips for being a highly-trained master of his field. But the 75-year-old only had his first exhibition in 2019, and it may be America’s most unlikely art phenomenon.

Phillips, who was Featured on CBS News in 2019He was arrested on charges of murder in 1971 Released in 2018But for 46 years, he was unjustly imprisoned.

He painted to pass the time and temper injustice.

“It was something to occupy my mind,” Phillips said. “I could get into one of my paintings and stay there for hours.”

Once he was released, however, he was sent on his way without a bus ticket, leaving him to wonder how he would survive.


Art by Richard Phillips.

Steve Hartman/On the Road

“I thought maybe I’d have to stand somewhere with a cup and beg for nickels and dimes,” Phillips said.

Once again, though, art saved him. He realized he could take his artwork—hundreds and hundreds Watercolor painting — and use it for a living.

Four years later, Phillips has Use his art to sell Buy a new house, a car or even a dog.

Now, he is enjoying what he was denied for nearly half a century.

“It’s not done yet. I’m still involved in social reform. I’m still involved in criminal justice. I’m still involved in the Innocence Network,” Phillips said. “I’m just trying to stay active.”

To contact On The Road or send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com.

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Steve Hartman

Steve Hartman

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