Beginning today, pictures of animals, landscapes and nature
scenes will line the walls of North Campus’ Media Union
Gallery. Though it sounds pastoral, this is no down-on-the-farm art
show — it is an exhibition of art created by Michigan’s
The show’s opening at 5 p.m. tonight kicks off two weeks
of events sponsored by the Prison Creative Arts Project, including
discussion panels, guest speakers, and film screenings. In its
ninth annual exhibition, the show is expected to draw a crowd of
2,500 before its March 16 closing.
Though the art exhibition is their largest event, PCAP
administrator Suzanne Gothard also predicts a healthy turnout at
the Michigan Theater showing of Brad Lichtenstein’s movie
“Ghosts of Attica” and Stephen Hartnett’s reading
of his book “Incarceration Nation” at Shaman Drum
Bookstore. The events are held March 11 and 12th respectively.
Organized by Gothard and curators English Professor William
“Buzz” Alexander and Ariella Kaufman, the
exhibition’s purpose is to create a forum for inmates to
“express themselves and to get their work out,” Gothard
said. “It’s a big event.”
“We have people lining up at the door,” said Janie
Paul, who has been the show’s curator for the last eight
years. Students and faculty, as well as community members and
relatives of artists, come to see 340 works of art by 213 inmates
from various prisons around the state.
Opening night will also host speeches by four former prison
artists and an art instructor at a correctional facility.
Preparation for the exhibit began in the fall, when PCAP sent
letters to Michigan’s prisons asking for artistic
Works were chosen based on their originality and artistic
ability. Popular mediums include sketches, paintings, collages and
“scratch art,” where a metallic image is created by
scraping off the top layer of a black sheet of paper.
Former contributor and inmate Jason Rios, who created a mixed
media piece for two past shows, said the exhibition helped his
personal growth. “When you’re incarcerated,
you’re a forgotten member of society. (PCAP’s exhibit)
put me back in touch with humanity,” said Rios, 27, who was
released from prison in 2001.
The pieces display differing degrees of expertise; both
“primitive” works and “extraordinary,
gallery-worthy pieces,” are shown, said Paul.
All art is for sale, ranging in artist-determined price from $25
to $500, with most pieces in the $60 to $100 range. 90 percent of
the profits go to the artist and the other 10 percent go toward
The show’s innovative works often surprise visitors, who
often “expect to see limited work coming out of a limited
situation, but there’s an incredibly wide range, from very
peaceful works to graphic representations of prison life,”
Regardless of the subject matter or quality of the art, she
added each piece displays a “tremendous emotional
intensity” and serves as an emotional “lifeline”
for its creator.