If the walls at Blue-Bird Coffee Lounge could talk they’d whisper rumours of a new gallery tucked behind a secret door in a wall of vintage speakers.

The little space, called Shantytown, will host a rotating program of exhibitions, workshops and art events, the first of which kicks off on July 15.

Inaugural exhibition The Drawings from Prison is by American artist Valentino Dixon, who has quite the story. The inmate at New York’s Attica Correctional Facility is serving a 39-years-to-life sentence for murder. He has appealed and is awaiting clemency, because someone else confessed to the crime. In the meantime, he draws golf courses – hundreds of them – a symbol of his hope for freedom.

“I'm thrilled to be able to exhibit on behalf of Valentino and his wife Louise,” says curator Julie Fielke, from Contempo Art Collections. “I was particularly intrigued by his golf pieces as Louise explained [he] had never played golf or set foot on a golf course.”

Shantytown will also host creative workshops and regular Sunday music sessions. “We alternate between jazz, blues, a lounge DJ, and live performances by local singers and instrumentalists,” says Blue-Bird owner Rob de Kok. “Jazz singer Alex McKay appears again this Sunday, July 10, from 2 to 4pm, no cover charge.”

Behind the counter there’s a selection of pastries, cakes, lunch options, soup, Carnevale Coffee and Wildfire Organic Tea.

“As a longtime non-caffeine person I'm also proud to say that we have an emphasis on having the best decaffeinated coffee in town,” de Kok says. “It’s often looked down upon but an increasingly important part of any coffee house repertoire.”

The Drawings from Prison launches on July 15, 6.30pm to 8.30pm and runs until August 7.