Art in Prison photo
Mon, 02/23/2015 - 8:00am to Fri, 05/29/2015 - 5:00pm
Art & Architecture Collection

Art rehabilitation programs have existed in prisons throughout the United States since the 1970’s. Some of the most popular and current programs include Rehabilitation Through the Arts, The Prison Arts Coalition, and California Arts-In-Corrections. Many of these programs provide a variety of artistic outlets including theatre, dance, creative writing, film, visual art, music and even yoga and meditation. According to the California Arts Council, inmates who are exposed to art programs are more likely to adjust to life outside prison and are less likely to become repeat offenders.[1] Benny Andrews, curator for Echoes: Prisons, U.S.A. describes art as, “one of the means many prisoners have found to express their will to survive and to attempt to communicate with themselves and with those of us on the outside.”[2]

The materials in this case are just some of the items in our collection that highlight the artistic works created by prisoners.  They range from mail art, oil paintings, wood sculpture, and colored drawings. Painter and mail artist Broderick (Drew) Hill creatively used M & M’s, Skittles, coffee and toothpaste to create the colors and images depicted on these envelopes. Author/artist Ken Kesey received art supplies from friends, who visited him while he was in prison. His journals were kept hidden from guards and “smuggled out” by a friend; his last two journals were confiscated.[3] Although art programs exist in some prisons, other inmates must go through extreme lengths to create their artwork and even protect it.

As former director of the Everson Museum of Art, James Harithas believes a prison fine arts program “goes beyond simply providing an outlet or a hobby for the inmates. Such a program offers a creative framework within which the student can explore his visual and intellectual relationship to the ‘inside’ as well as the ‘outside’ and dispel or deal with irrational or unaccountable fantasies.”[4]

Curated by Mallory Gianola, this exhibition is presented in conjunction with the UCSB Reads exhibition Girls-in-Justice, which is located on the first floor at the Davidson Library.

Top (Left to Right): From Within: Selected Works by the Artists/Inmates of New York State Correctional Facility at Auburn-Maximum Security, AEC-15,878. Kesey's jail journal: cut the m************ loose, PS 3561.E667 Z7 2003.

Bottom (Left to Right): Drew (Broderick) Hill’s Mail Art, Judith Hoffberg Collection, MSS 62. Echoes--prisons, U.S.A.: October 24-November 28, AEC- 80482.



[2] Echoes--prisons, U.S.A.: October 24-November 28, guest curator Benny Andrews; AEC-80482


[4] From Within: Selected Works by the Artists/Inmates of New York State Correctional Facility at Auburn-Maximum Security, AEC-15,878