CorrespondARTS is JAC’s multidisciplinary, distance learning arts program, which launched at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in November, 2020. Through CorrespondARTS, participants receive themed packets of prompts and activities in creative writing, poetry, theatre, and visual art every two weeks for six months. CorrespondARTS has included participants at three other Maryland prisons: Dorsey Run CF, Central Maryland CF, and Baltimore City CF, and now serves over 80 participants at Howard County Detention Center. Participants send their responses to the prompts and activities in the packets back to the CorrespondARTS team for feedback and reflections. For some examples of CorrespondARTS participants’ work, check out our most recent anthology here. JAC has an amazing group of local teaching artists, each with experience facilitating programs in carceral settings, leading this project:
Lori Pitts is an Applied Theatre practitioner, Theatre of the Oppressed Joker, teaching artist, actor, improvisor, and director in the DMV area. She is passionate about creating platforms for voices that often go unheard. She is the Founding Director of Voices Unbarred, a program that aims to amplify the voices of those impacted by incarceration by using Theatre of the Oppressed techniques to help them write and perform an original play around relevant issues, and is a core member of the DC Coalition for Theatre & Social Justice. Pitts teaches and performs regularly with Young Playwrights’ Theater and has recently been seen on stage with Second City, Rorschach Theatre, The Welders, and Ally Theatre. She is a member of the inaugural cohort of the Culture Caucus with The Kennedy Center, a graduate of the 202Creates Fellowship, a graduate of the Movement Matters Community Organizing & Popular Education Institute, and is a three-time recipient of the Arts and Humanities Fellowship Program grant through the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her work within the community.
Carien Quiroga is an award-winning multimedia visual artist and educator that uses her artmaking and teaching practices to engage with creative communities both locally and internationally. Social Justice, mindfulness and collaboration are at the core of her artistic work and teaching practices. She is on the Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Roster and is a Master Teacher for the Maryland State Department of Education: Office of Fine Arts – Maryland Centers for Creative Classrooms. Her teaching includes visual art workshops and collaborative projects for incarcerated youth and adults, including those with mental illness, intergenerational art programs as well as mosaic mural-making residencies in hospitals, residential treatment facilities and schools, working with students of all abilities.
Leslie Bumstead is a poet, writer and educator. She received her Masters in Fine Arts from George Mason University, where she co-founded of So To Speak, a Feminist Journal of Language and Art. Her collection of poems, Cipher/Civilian, was published by Edge Books in 2005. Poems, essays, and translations have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies. Since 2015 she has been teaching weekly creative writing classes in the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, interrupted due to Covid-19, and is thrilled to be working with the Justice Arts Coalition and a team of teaching artists to develop a correspondence arts course for the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women.
Thank you for the positive feedback. The personal touch really means a lot. I find that these exercises make it easier and easier to open up, and I actually end up feeling good when I’m finished. They’re very therapeutic. Again, I appreciate your taking the time to send me a personal message. The more I write the easier it’s getting for me to open up and express myself. Before it was almost like the intimacy of a diary, but the feedback kind of changes the dynamic. Not in any type of negative way or anything, just different…
I appreciate you guys and this program for giving me the opportunity to express myself and helping me to constructively pass the time in here. This is definitely something special that y’all got going. Take care of yourself.
-Erik McNeely, CorrespondARTS participant