The Prison Story Project

On May 23, 2020, in collaboration with The Prison Story Project, the Justice Arts Coalition will be presenting a premiere screening of “On the Row,” a documentary created by The Prison Story Project that explores the humanity and stories of men currently on death row. As part of our larger Create + Connect: Online Workshop Series, JAC feels privileged to be a part of this vital dialogue, and looks forward to your attendance at this screening. JAC recently spoke to Kathy McGregor, Founder and Project Director at The Prison Story Project. Her profound words are below.

To register for the “On the Row” screening, which will be presented on May 23 @3:00 pm EST, visit this link. 


Since 2012, The Prison Story Project has entered correctional centers in Arkansas to give
women and men the tools to tell their stories. We believe that no voice should be silenced, and we hope through staged readings of the women’s and men’s writing that we will help bridge the gap between the incarcerated and the communities to which they hope to return.

In May of 2016, The Prison Story Project gained unprecedented access to the men on death row. We knew that these men had, through violent acts, silenced the voices of innocent lives forever. We entered partly on impulse, partly on faith, and partly because we could. The men on the row initially met us with curiosity and a good deal of resistance. They wanted to know what was in it for us. They feared we would manipulate or exploit them. They didn’t trust us. Over six months, through mailings and visits, we asked them to tell their stories. Many of our proven strategies failed. The men on the row told us they were different from other prisoners and that we couldn’t possibly understand them. However, they kept trying and we kept trying. The magic of looking a person in the eye and treating him like a human being started to take hold, and without a doubt the men on the row were powerful writers with stories that surprised us with their insights and emotional depth. They didn’t dwell on their pasts or blame others for their crimes. Some of them had found an immense peace that eludes many of us in the free world, and they wanted to share it purely out of gratitude for having found it. By facing their crimes, enduring their sentences, and accepting their impending deaths, they each found ways to survive and retain their humanity. Their writing exploded, and by our final class we saw each other eye to eye. They trusted us, they said. We
had just gotten our first glimpse of them, we said back.

We didn’t know how they would react to our presentation of their writing. They had put up resistance all along and doubted that we could properly represent their stories. On October 8, 2016, the day of the inside performance, we showed up with an entourage of two poets, a storyteller, five actors, and a musician. We brought snacks. We chatted. We threw a little party in one of the darkest corners in America. When the performance started, we fell to silence and listened deeply. As one of the men on the row wrote us afterwards in a thank you letter, we were all transformed by the writing we heard that day: inmates, teachers, and actors. The writing, he said, culminated in something that’s bigger than all of us.

The Governor of Arkansas signed orders on February 27, 2017 for an unprecedented 8
executions over 10 days to begin just after Easter. Four of the men scheduled participated in this project. Stacey Johnson and Don Davis received stays. Jack Jones was executed on April 24, 2017, and Kenneth Williams was executed on April 27, 2017. Many of us held silent vigil at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, AR on each of the scheduled execution dates as the defense lawyers and Attorney General filed briefs with the Arkansas Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court literally up to minutes before the death warrants expired at midnight. One participant described the vigils as feeling like silent screams.

The film screening of “On The Row” reminds us all of the humanity of the men on the row and the redemption they have found during twenty plus years of being locked away in solitary confinement. They are profoundly grateful to be heard and share their stories. And we are lucky to be able to hear them.


For more information on the Prison Story Project:

Matt Henriksen, Prison Story Project Creative Writing Director for “On The Row”
Kathy McGregor, Prison Story Project Founder and Project Director
Fayetteville, AR
www.prisonstoryproject.com

PCAP Announces a full Schedule of Events for the 14th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

"Halloween: Fall Fun-Time" by Gary English
"Halloween: Fall Fun-Time" by Gary English

For 14th Annual Exhibition press release see this post.

Tuesday, March 24
Opening Reception

Join the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) as we celebrate the opening of the 14th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. Formerly incarcerated artists, and Curators Buzz Alexander, Janie Paul, and Jason Wright, will address visitors to the gallery at 6:15 p.m. Free and open to the public.
5:30 – 8:00 p.m., Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor, MI

Wednesday, March 25
Bill Ayers

Join us as Bill Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois and Chicago Citizen of the Year, talks about the role of the arts, education, and activism in shaping our collective destinies. Bill Ayers is the author of several books on education and social justice and is the founder of Chicago’s Small Schools Workshop and the Center for Youth and Society.
7:30 p.m., Rackham Amphitheatre, 915 E. Washington St. Ann Arbor, MI

Thursday, March 26
The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing: Book Release and Celebration

PCAP and the 14th Annual Exhibition of Prisoner Art present an evening in celebration of PCAP’s first ever Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing. Join us with guest editor and prisoner writing advocate and teacher Joseph Bathanti to enjoy selections of the beautiful and unabashed poetry, prose, and fiction of Michigan’s incarcerated writers. We come together on March 26th to celebrate and honor the talent and vison of these hidden voices with readings by recently released writers whose work has been featured.
7:00pm, Anderson Room, Michigan Union, 530 S. State St. Ann Arbor, MI

Friday, March 27
The Art of Social Change

Malaquias Montoya, a Professor at the University of California, Davis and renown Chicano artist, will present his latest exhibit, “Premeditated: Meditations on Capital Punishment.” This exhibit was inspired by Malaquias’s longstanding commitment to speaking out on behalf of those who are disadvantaged and oftentimes silenced by society. His art reveals the underlying racial and class injustices that are carried out through state sponsored execution, and his images are purposefully graphic so as to awaken audiences from their anesthetized response to capital punishment. In all of his work Malaquias sees it has his responsibility to comment on the culture of his time and create social change through art.
7:30 p.m., Henderson Room, Michigan League, 911 N. University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI

Saturday, March 28
Youth Speak

Please join us as a group of Detroit youth come together to discuss serious issues of urban living. It will be a facilitated dialogue with these bright young leaders about the challenges they face, and then an open discussion with all in attendance about these same challenges.
2:00 p.m., Room D, Michigan League, 911. N. University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI

Sunday, March 29
Artists Talkback

Join us as a panel of formerly incarcerated artists discuss works in this year’s show and the process of creating art behind bars. The event is moderated by U of M’s School of Art and Design Professor, Janie Paul.
3-5 PM Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor MI

Wednesday, April 1
Tough Choices: A Look at the Complexities of the Michigan Parole and Commutation Board

Join us for a conversation about the process by which the Michigan Parole and Commutation Board reach decisions determining whether a prisoner is ready to return to society.
4:00 p.m., Anderson Room A/B, Michigan Union, 530 S. State St. Ann Arbor, MI

Monday, April 6
Invisible Women: The Crisis of Incarcerated Mothers

Silja Talvi, investigative journalist, and author of Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the US Prison System, and Melissa Radcliff, Executive Director of Our Children’s Place, a residential initiative allowing young children to live with their incarcerated mothers, join us to discuss the intersections of incarceration and motherhood.
7:30pm, Rackham Assembly Hall, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor, MI

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Closing Reception

5:30 – 8:00 p.m., Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor

Exhibition Dates
March 24 – April 8, 2009

Gallery Hours
Tuesday-Saturday 10am-7pm
Sunday-Monday 12pm-6pm

For further information
call 734-647-7673 or email prisonart@umich.edu

*Watch a preview of Acts of Art: The Prison Creative Arts Project at:
http://www.michigantelevision.org

logoplainwww.prisonarts.org

NATION’S LARGEST PRISONER ART EXHIBITION ADDRESSES GLOBAL CLIMATE CRISIS

"Halloween: Fall Fun-Time" by Gary English
"Halloween: Fall Fun-Time" by Gary English

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) presents the Fourteenth Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. The artwork featured in PCAP’s Annual Exhibition over the years has addressed a wide variety of social issues, this year focusing on climate change. Incarcerated people being cut off from the natural landscape have witnessed the widespread poisoning and consumption of the Earth’s natural resources in poignant and innovative ways. The artwork in this year’s show gives voice to these observations.

From March 24 – April 8, 2009, the show will be held at the Duderstadt Center Gallery on the University of Michigan North Campus at 2281 Bonisteel Boulevard. Over the past decade, this nationally recognized show has grown to be the largest exhibition of prisoner art in the country. This year’s exhibition will include more than 300 works of art by over 200 artists, shedding light on the talents to be found behind prison walls and encouraging the public to take a second look.

Free and open to the public, the exhibition and surrounding educational events raise awareness and inspire dialogue between the incarcerated and the community at large. The public is invited to an opening reception on March 24th from 5:30 – 8 p.m. in the gallery. Formerly incarcerated artists who have now reentered into the community will speak about what the show means to those in prison.

Participating artists express gratitude to organizers and gallery visitors alike, stressing the show’s impact on their lives and the community at large. “I believe that your program gives the public a glimpse into the type of things that inspire even the most downtrodden of us all” writes one artist. “When people see our work, for a few moments, they forget that this work was done by a felon, but by another human being. A human being who has the same thoughts, emotions, and inspirations as they do, and for that one moment, a major social and political barrier is shattered.”

Despite limited resources, exhibition artists create work in a rich range of styles, mediums, and themes. Visitors return to the show year after year to glimpse art that is remarkable for its originality, beauty, and sheer expressive power. Last year, over 4,000 people came to the exhibit. Organizers expect even higher attendance this year and an exciting array of new work.

This year’s exhibition, curated by Professors Buzz Alexander, Janie Paul, and Jason Wright, exhibits work from over forty prisons throughout the state. The curators, PCAP Administrators Lashaun phoenix Moore, and Sari Adelson, along with various volunteers travel to these prisons to hand select the strongest work from the artists. As a result of this annual event, the amount of art created in Michigan prisons has increased dramatically, and Michigan prison artists have become national leaders, inspiring others to create art behind bars.

The Prison Creative Arts Project will be celebrating the release of the first annual Literary Review of Writing by Michigan Prisoners in conjunction with the 14th annual exhibition. The lit review contains writings from both men and women incarcerated across the state of Michigan, and will be celebrated with formerly incarcerated writers and guest editor, Joey Bathanti, reading excerpts from the review.

The exhibition is to be accompanied by keynote speeches from acclaimed author of A Kind and Just Parent, and Chicago Citizen of the Year, William Ayers, poster artist/political activist Malaquias Montoya, and award winning author of Coventry, Joey Bathanti. In conjunction, a panel discussion on women and children inside prison will be held with journalist Silja Talvi, and executive director of Our Children’s Place, Melissa Radcliff. For a complete listing and description of events, please visit: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/pcap/pages/news.asp#sched.

Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday, and 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Sun day – Monday.

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Editors: Photos of art work and gallery available upon request.

Reporters: Option of previewing the show on Monday, March 23, upon request.

Watch a brief preview of the PBS documentary “Acts of Art: The Prison Creative Arts Project” here: http://www.michigantelevision.org/

logoplainFor More Information: call 734-647-7673 or email prisonart@umich.edu. www.prisonarts.org