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Inmate Artworks on Display at California State Capitol
By California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Published: 01/18/2019

SACRAMENTO — Demonstrating that creativity can flourish even during confinement, artworks by California inmates are on display at the California State Capitol through Jan. 25 outside the Governor’s Office in the annex hallway.

The exhibit, “Beyond the Blue,” features 15 diverse artworks evoking the prison experience, personal expression and transformation. The artworks were created by students participating in rehabilitative Prison Arts Collective (PAC) classes taught inside state prisons. PAC is made possible by a contract through California Arts in Corrections, a partnership between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California Arts Council.

“Arts in Corrections is one of CDCR’s many evidence-based programs reducing recidivism through the instruction of visual, performing, and literary arts,” said Brantley Choate, director of CDCR’s Division of Rehabilitative Programs. “We are grateful for all of the arts programs in our prisons.”

Artist instructors will be available to discuss the program with the public on Jan. 22 from 10:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Artworks can be viewed during the Capitol’s public hours, on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

PAC was founded by Annie Buckley, a professor of visual studies at California State University, San Bernardino. While there are many rehabilitation methods, she said art is special.

“Art has the capacity that no other medium has to allow people to access their own personal voice and experience,” she said. “Even if they can’t identify their issues verbally, they can express it in paint and collage. Often it’s the first step to understanding, self-acceptance and healing.”

PAC is one of 16 Arts in Corrections organizations. All the organizations offer structured art classes taught by professional artists, allowing inmates to earn good-time credits and Rehabilitative Achievement Credits for their participation.

Eight prisons offer PAC courses and as many as 2,200 offenders have gone through the program. Pieces include:
  • “Coffee Obama” – Artist Tony Ramirez at Ironwood State Prison created a series of paintings of President Barack Obama using only coffee.
  • “Count Time” – Artist Chris Branscombe, whose sentence was recently commuted by former Gov. Jerry Brown, painted a scene of California State Prison, Los Angeles County depicting the silence that falls on the institutions when all are inside.
  • “The Change Within” – Artist Javier Quintero at Avenal State Prison used a Bic pen for his profile of Mahatma Gandhi. Underneath are the words: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
Ramirez, the artist who drew the Gandhi portrait, struggled for a title for the piece, Buckley said. “He finally said he’d thought of something,” Buckley recalled. “He said he wanted to call it ‘The Change Within.’ He told me he grew up believing in an eye for an eye. He said that as he’s grown older, he realizes that just causes more trauma and more harm.”

“Beyond the Blue” is a traveling exhibition of more than 100 works. It opened in 2017 and has scheduled visits at Southern California galleries and museums through 2020.

CDCR – CDCR is committed to inmate rehabilitation through many avenues, including structured arts instruction, education and job skill training. After a period of budget cuts, CDCR reinstituted Arts in Corrections in 2013. Arts in Corrections – California’s Arts in Corrections program is administered by the California Arts Council, a state agency, in partnership with CDCR. Arts in Corrections is designed to prepare incarcerated individuals for success upon release, enhance rehabilitative goals, and improve the safety and environment of state prisons through arts engagement. Through Arts in Corrections, arts learning opportunities are offered in all 35 adult institutions, spanning the full spectrum of art disciplines, with instruction in visual, literary, performance, media and traditional and folk arts. www.artsincorrections.org Prison Arts Collective – The Prison Arts Collective works to expand access to the transformative power of the arts through collaboration and mutual learning that supports the development of self-expression, reflection, communication, and empathy through providing multidisciplinary arts programming in correctional institutions. The program is based out of CSU San Bernardino and has an emergent chapter at CSU Fresno. The PAC is funded by grants and contracts from Arts in Corrections, CDCR Innovative Grants the National Endowment for the Arts. Classes are provided at the following institutions: California Institution for Men, California Rehabilitation Center, California Institution for Women, California State Prison, Los Angeles County, Calipatria State Prison, Ironwood State Prison, Chuckwalla Valley State Prison, Avenal State Prison and the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility. www.prisonartscollective.com For exhibit and PAC information, contact Annie Buckley at (213) 590-9798 or anniebuckleyla@gmail.com. For CDCR information, contact Terri Hardy or Allie Powell at (916) 445-4950.


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