When the world closed, as some describe the widespread shutdown due to Covid 19, many of us with connections to Ohio’s prison system knew we couldn’t just sit back and hope for the best then wait to see our students on the other side of the pandemic.
We considered our own lives in isolation. What were we doing? We were reading, listening to music, watching movies; we were engaging with the arts! With that in mind, we knew we wanted to give our incarcerated friends a way to experience something of the arts and create some art themselves! Thus, the Creative Care Package Project was born!
This project was birthed in discussions members of the Ohio Prison Arts Connection (OPAC) had as we wrestled with how to maintain support and connection. OPAC is a coalition of people committed to building arts access for people in prison and re-entry, and to creating spaces for storytelling, resource-sharing, and dialogue both inside and outside of prisons. (Link to OPAC Website and Facebook page).
We put out a call for artists to contribute artistic prompts with the goal of creating a booklet that could be printed and given to inmates to work on a variety of creative projects. We asked for creative writing prompts, drawing prompts, or other simple invitations to create. The only stipulation was that the prompt be contained to one 8 ½ x 11 page, with ample white space for response. The call went out to OPAC friends who passed along to other artists and friends.
And the pages began rolling in!
We limited the booklets to 40 pages, with a mini-booklet also available. Initially, we printed them and mailed or delivered them, so size was an issue with a limited budget to work with. We also sent them out electronically so people can use selected portions or individual pages, or print the entire booklet in quantities they needed. We wanted this project to include as much flexibility as possible so people involved in the prison system from a variety of angles and in different settings can pull from the files what works for them.
We sought and received amazing support from state leadership which gave us permission to send our project out to every institution in the state through the recreation directors. This streamlined the process to a uniform system of sharing both current and future booklets. And we hope it will help when it comes to sharing completed work which we hope to publish.
Now, five months later, we are glad we took a pro-active approach right away. With no end to the visitor/volunteer ban in sight, we don’t know how long it will be before we can get back to what we were doing in our pre-pandemic days. Nor do we know what our involvement will look like when things do open back up.
Meanwhile, we are thrilled to know we have provided those on the inside with a way to share their thoughts and feelings with each other and with those on the outside. We also plan to continue to produce a group of prompts each month in an effort to give artists on both sides of the fence a way to connect with their inner artist.
If you want to contribute an artistic prompt for a future edition, here is what we’re seeking:
And if you want to share the Creative Care Packages with those you know, here’s where you can find them: