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Seeking input on building a national prison arts association

5 Jan

Dear friends of The Prison Arts Coalition:

Building upon a new level of cultural awareness regarding the benefits of arts in corrections programs, we would like to know if an expanded national organization would be a valuable asset to you and the work you do.

In these early stages, we feel the association could offer the following to its members:

  • Raise awareness of programmatic efficacy
  • Host national or regional conferences
  • Share best practices
  • Foster community
  • Support, collect and disseminate relevant research
  • Offer professional development opportunities
  • What else can you imagine?

The following 5-minute survey is designed to help better understand the need for a national prison arts association and how it can best serve potential members like you.  Your input is incredibly valuable during this early stage.

National Prison Arts Survey

We are hoping to collect all responses by January 29th.

Thank you for your time!

This survey has been developed with input by an ad hoc steering committee of prison arts advocates and practitioners, including:

Cynthia Gutierrez – Barrios Unidos Prison Project

Ella Turenne – Artist, Activist, EducatorOccidental College

Freddy Gutierrez – Community Worker, Performing Artist

Illya Kowalchuk – Pop Culture Classroom

Jonathan Blanco – Oregon State Penitentiary Hobby Shop

Laurie Brooks – William James Association

Lesley Currier – Marin Shakespeare Company

Nate Henry-Silva – Imagine Bus Project

Nathalie Costa Thill – Adirondack Center for Writing

Treacy Ziegler – An Open Window

Victoria Sammartino – Voices UnBroken

Wendy Jason – Prison Arts Coalition

Alma Robinson – California Lawyers for the Arts

Weston Dombroski – California Lawyers for the Arts

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Call for submissions – Transforming Grief: Personal and Communal Loss in the Work of Remaking the World

17 Feb

DEADLINE: March 25, 2015

Transforming Grief is rooted in the belief that the most potent stories—the ones most capable of informing critical shifts—are those that emerge from our hearts and lives, our learning and intervulnerability. This anthology will bring together writers from a variety of perspectives striving to unearth the transformative value of grief as an individual and collective experience through creative nonfiction.

The works in this collection will include compelling narratives and strong arguments that embody a deep exploration of ideas and themes, using concrete, lived personal and/or communal engagements with a spectrum of losses to illuminate larger questions about the sociopolitical forces at play in the world and our lives. As a body of writing and thinking, this compendium will also look at the ways in which grief is a natural response to present-day social systems, and can be mobilized to generate prefigurative experimentation in self-organization while reclaiming our imagination and humanity.

For more info, to contact us, and/or to submit a piece, see our Web site: http://transforming-grief.net/

Like our page to follow our work: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Transforming-Grief/774013049331958?ref=br_tf

Subscribe to our e-annoucements list for occasional updates on the anthology and related projects/events: http://transforming-grief.net/contact

Please help us to get the word out and circulate this call throughout your networks.

NATION’S LARGEST EXHIBTION OF PRISON ART CELEBRATES 15 YEARS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

10 Mar
PCAP Artwork - Ket Painting

Title: Why my baby? Artist: dara ket

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) presents the Fifteenth Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners.  Running from March 23 – April 7, 2010, the show will be held at the Duderstadt Center Gallery on the University of Michigan North Campus at 2281 Bonisteel Boulevard.  Over the past 15 years, this nationally recognized show has grown to be the largest exhibition of prisoner art in the country.  This year’s exhibition will include more than 300 works of art by over 200 artists, shedding light on the talents to be found behind prison walls and encouraging the public to take a second look.

Free and open to the public, the exhibition and surrounding educational events raise awareness and inspire dialogue between the incarcerated and the community at large. The public is invited to an opening reception on March 23th from 5:30 – 8 p.m. in the gallery.  University of Michigan Provost Theresa Sullivan will join the curators of the exhibition along with the Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, Patricia Caruso in addressing the gallery. Formerly incarcerated artists who have now re-entered into the community will also speak about what the show means to those in prison.

Participating artists express gratitude to organizers and gallery visitors alike, stressing the show’s impact on their lives and the community at large.  “I believe that your program gives the public a glimpse into the type of things that inspire even the most downtrodden of us all” writes one artist. “When people see our work, for a few moments, they forget that this work was done by a felon, but by another human being.  A human being who has the same thoughts, emotions, and inspirations as they do, and for that one moment, a major social and political barrier is shattered.”

Despite limited resources, exhibition artists create work in a rich range of styles, mediums, and themes.  This year artists have also been asked to address the current economic situation in the state of Michigan visually if they so choose. Visitors return to the show year after year to glimpse art that is remarkable for its originality, beauty, and sheer expressive power.  Last year, over 4,000 people came to the exhibit.  Organizers expect even higher attendance this year and an exciting array of new work.

This year’s exhibition, curated by Professors Buzz Alexander, Janie Paul, and Jason Wright, exhibits work from over forty prisons throughout the state.  The curators, PCAP Administrators Lashaun phoenix Moore, and Sari Adelson, along with various volunteers travel to these prisons to hand select the strongest work from the artists. As a result of this annual event, the amount of art created in Michigan prisons has increased dramatically, and Michigan prison artists have become national leaders, inspiring others to create art behind bars.

The Prison Creative Arts Project will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in conjunction with the 15th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners.   A symposium will be held at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus with a Keynote address being delivered by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project on March 26, 2010. Fellow practioners, Judith Tannebaum, Phyllis Kornfeld, Leslie Neal, and others, along with PCAP associates will hold panel discussions throughout the day on Saturday, March 27, 2010.

The exhibition is to be accompanied by the release of the 2nd Annual Literary Review of Creative Writing by Michigan Prisoners, readings of works from the publication by formerly incarcerated individuals are set to take place both in Ann Arbor and in the Detroit area, a screening of the film “Concrete, Steel, and Paint” and dialog with filmmakers will be held at the Michigan Theater, Natalie Holbrook from the American Friends Service Committee will address issues of Health Care inside Michigan’s Prisons, youth from Detroit will join us for a dialog about what’s on their minds, as they speak about their lives and their communities.  For full listing of events please click here.

Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday, and 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday – Monday.

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For more information: call 734-647-7673, email prisonart@umich.edu, or visit www.prisonarts.org
Watch a brief preview of the PBS documentary “Acts of Art: The Prison Creative Arts Project” here: http://www.michigantelevision.org/

Former Prisoners Perform at the Pulitzer

13 Apr

From Community Arts Network  http://www.communityarts.net/apinews/archivefiles/2009/04/former_inmates.php

A unique Prison Performing Arts program is underway in St. Louis, Mo., as former prisoners present short performance pieces about Old Masters works that inspired them.

The participants are graduates of Employment Connection, a Missouri workforce-development agency assisting former inmates. They have been exploring the Old Masters exhibition at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and studying writing, movement, voice, diction and performance with Washington University students from the Performing Arts, English, Design and Visual Arts Departments. Concurrently, specialized classes through Employment Connection help them bridge their work in class to the development of employment and life skills. For five weekends in April and May 2009, they’re showing their work at Pulitzer during “Staging Old Masters.” The project Web site has a schedule, bios, interviews, photos and links to Prison Performing Arts and similar programs.

Visit Staging Old Masters here

The Poetic Justice Project

18 Mar

nudebyjshiavronBy Deborah Tobola

(“Robin” by John Schiavron, pastel)

While I was working as an artist/facilitator with California’s Arts in Corrections program, I often wished there were a reentry arts program that I could refer paroling inmates to, a place where they could find a creative community and continue on a path many of them had begun only after coming to prison. About four years ago, I got a call from a parole agent who suggested I go to the local theater. When I arrived, the play’s director told me that John, a former student who’d paroled four months earlier, had presented himself, saying he had a background in designing and painting sets, but it was all at prison.

John had spent most of his adult life behind bars. Before he paroled, he told me that until he began working in a collaborative creative environment, he’d never thought of himself as anything but a criminal. But while he was still in prison, he began to imagine a different sort of life, a life that included art and theater and a commitment to his community. Within a year of paroling, John showed his work at a local gallery. He went from decades in prison to an artist’s reception, from criminal to community theater volunteer.  This is what John says about his art education in prison:  “It would prove to be a life saving experience. I became involved in many aspects of Art. Poetry, painting, drawing, writing, acting, singing. I learned how to collaborate with others. I was learning a new lifestyle and it gave me a good feeling to be doing something different with my life. I learned that I could do something besides being a prisoner. I started feeling confident. I started feeling proud of this transition that was taking place in me. The experience for me was dramatic. When I paroled, I knew it would be different for me. I am changed. I am off of parole now and continue to be involved with productive projects to continue my transformation.”

One of his colleagues, Cliff, a writer, says:  “I can testify that the single most challenging aspect of my incarceration, as well as my release, was a sense of belonging. While incarcerated I got involved in Arts In Corrections. In the program we wrote and produced theater plays with fellow inmates. Our first play, Blue Train, about a father and son who meet for the first time in prison, turned out to be a life-changing experience. Inmates who were usually separated by race, gang affiliation and social status worked together for the first time. While producing Blue Train, I watched hard men become like children again. That is when I knew the power of art. That is when I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

Jorge, a gifted young poet, writes about his first encounters with literature: “I began to read and write while I was in a juvenile detention camp, and this habit went with me to prison when I became an adult. First I would read novels and fiction and even from these novels and fictions books I would learn a few things from, soon after I began reading other books like self-help and books I can learn from, my eyes opened to a new world to the real world, I realized that the small world where I was a small legend where a lot of other small and limited people came from was just a grain of sand compared to the giant world that really existed.”

John and Cliff and Jorge are just a few of the men whose talent and determination to succeed inspired me to leave the Arts in Corrections program and begin a new path myself, as program director of the William James Association’s Poetic Justice Project. The Poetic Justice Project helps ex-offenders come back into their communities through engagement in the arts, including workshops, mentorship and public performances. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.