Events Calendar for the 23rd Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

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“Crying Inside” by G. Allen

“Prison does not define who we are as people, but instead reflects poor decisions we have made. I would ask that those who judge us to perhaps look past the blue and orange state clothes we wear, and to try to practice empathy. Please try to understand us. Please try to look past our imperfections and most importantly, try to forgive us. I believe that many inmates struggle with, yet desperately desire to express who they truly are, and the reasons are numerous. Creating art is one avenue I personally use to express myself. All of my paintings reflect either my sadness, my happiness, my dreams, my desires, my passions, or I just find them beautiful. Whatever painting of mine you may be looking at right now, please know that while you are certainly seeing a part of me, there is far more to understand and discover about me beyond the blue and orange I wear.” G. Allen, 2018

23rd Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

March 21 – April 4, 2018
Duderstadt Center Gallery
University of Michigan North Campus
2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor, MI 48109

The Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners is one of the largest exhibitions of art by incarcerated artists in the country. Each year, faculty, staff and students from the University of Michigan travel to correctional facilities across Michigan and select work for the exhibition while providing feedback and critique that strengthens artist’s work and builds community around making art inside prisons.

The 23rd Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners is supported by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, University of Michigan Office of the Provost; College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; School of Music, Theatre & Dance; Stamps School of Art and Design; Residential College.

Events Calendar

Exhibition hours are 12pm-6pm Sunday and Monday; 10am-7pm Tuesday through Saturday. The gallery will be closed April 1.

Opening Events, 23rd Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Duderstadt Center Gallery
Celebrate the opening day of the 23rd Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. Gallery opens at 10am. Sales begin at 6 pm. Opening Reception will begin at 7 pm, with guest speakers from the University of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Corrections, and artists from previous exhibitions.

Keene Theatre Performance with Friends from Brazil

Friday, March 23, 2018 from 7 to 8 pm
Keene Theatre, Residential College, East Quad
Join PCAP as we welcome visitors from the theatre departments of two universities in Brazil, UDESC in Florianópolis and UniRio in Rio de Janeiro. Students and faculty from both universities host a group of PCAP students and Prof. Ashley Lucas each summer as part of our ongoing exchange program. Our friends from Brazil will perform various short pieces of theatre, dance, and music in the Keene Theatre as a way to share some of their phenomenal performance work with us.

Artists’ Panel, 23rd Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

Sunday, March 25, 2018, 11am – 12:30pm
Duderstadt Center Gallery
Artists from previous Prison Creative Arts Project exhibitions share their stories and answer questions about life as a prison artist in this informal panel discussion, moderated by Professor Emerita Janie Paul.

The 10th Anniversary Edition, Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing Volume 10, Ann Arbor Reading

Sunday, March 25, 2018, 4pm – 6pm
East Room, near the Duderstadt Gallery – North Campus
Hear selections from this year’s 10th anniversary special edition, read by family and friends of contributing authors. Books will be for sale. Cosponsored by LSA Residential College, LSA Department of English Language and Literature, and the Jackson Social Justice Fund of Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Ann Arbor
PCAP’s Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing seeks to showcase the talent and diversity of Michigan’s incarcerated writers. The review features writing from both beginning and experienced writers – writing that comes from the heart, and that is unique, well-crafted, and lively.

Maine Inside Out Performance

Wednesday, March 28, 2018, 6:30-8pm
Keene Theatre, Residential College, East Quad, Room B-141
Maine Inside Out (MIO) artists facilitate the creation of original theatre to engage the community in dialogue about issues related to incarceration. Chiara Libertore, one of Professor Emeritus William “Buzz” Alexander’s first students (LSA English Language and Literature) in what would become the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), co-founded the MIO non-profit in 2007. MIO provides year round voluntary theatre workshops for more than half of the young people at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, Maine. Its reintegration program for newly-released Maine Inside Out participants includes weekly community groups, mentoring, and transitional employment opportunities for youth in three Maine communities that incarcerate the highest number of young people.
MIO’s transformative justice curriculum includes a new original production created by young adult artists debuting in 2017. Join us for a public performance and dialogue in the Residential College’s Keene Theatre.

Keynote: “Voices from the Abyss: Twenty Years of Journalism with the Angolite Magazine,” Kerry Myers

Thursday, March 29, 2018, 7pm-9pm
Duderstadt Center Gallery
Kerry Myers grew up in a small town suburb of New Orleans. He holds a B.A. in Communications and Journalism. In 1990, he was sentenced to life without parole. Kerry served his time in the Louisiana State
Penitentiary, know famously as Angola. In 1996, Wilbert Rideau, the incarcerated editor of the prison’s news magazine The Angolite, recruited Myers to write for the publication. In June 2001, when Rideau left prison, Myers became only the second editor of The Angolite in the previous 25 years. Under his guidance, the magazine reported on the death penalty with a depth and clarity that was recognized with the Thurgood Marshall Journalism Award in 2007, the first of many honors and awards.
Taking on subjects like human trafficking, juvenile life without parole, aging, Alzheimer’s and dementia in prison, sentencing, pardons and parole policy and more, Myers guided the magazine as it became a resource for many top criminal justice and law programs in the US. In 2011 and 2012, Myers wrote a critically acclaimed series on the history of women in the Louisiana penal system, from Pre-Civil War to the present. In December 2016, Governor John Bel Edwards signed Myer’s second unanimous commutation of sentence, recommended by the Board of Pardons and Parole. Since that time, Myers has been working as a free-lance journalist and photographer, and is active in criminal justice reform in Louisiana, leading a wave of change in the state.

Michigan Art for Justice Forum

Tuesday, April 3, 2018, 9am-5pm in the Rogel Ballrom, Michigan Union
Reception 5:30-7pm in Duderstadt Center Gallery
In partnership with the California Lawyers for the Arts, Shakespeare Behind Bars, Creative Many, and the Art for Justice Fund, we are hosting the Michigan Art for Justice Forum. This all-day symposium will bring together lawmakers, artists, scholars, and formerly incarcerated people to discuss the necessity of arts programming in the criminal justice system. This forum is part of series of six forums happening in six states: Michigan, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, New York, and California. For more information, please send an inquiry to aic@calawyersforthearts.org. Reception to follow, featuring a performance by Wayne Kramer.

Artwork Pickup, 23rd Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

Wednesday, April 4, 2018, 6pm-8pm
Thursday, April 5, 2018, 10am-4pm
Duderstadt Center Gallery
Please bring your proof of purchase or your letter from PCAP if the work was not for sale. Volunteers will be available to help locate and package your artwork. Artwork selected for the Award Winners and Selected Work exhibit will be available in July. Art is not available for sale during artwork pickup times.

All events are free. No ticket required.

In My (Our) Shoes

By Mary Walle

About the guest blogger: Mary Walle is a Senior at the University of Michigan studying History. She’s been involved with the Prison Creative Arts Project since January 2012. Through PCAP Mary has participated in three theater workshops and performed in four original plays, one with the young men at Wolverine Human Services and three with two groups of men at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility. Their final production was February 7. Mary continues to work with PCAP but is not currently participating in any workshops in order to focus on her Senior Thesis Project on the Sanctuary Movement in Detroit. She dedicates her thesis to the men she worked with at Gus Harrison. 

I was always conscious of my clothing going inside nearly every week of this past year. Wear something baggy to cover my form. Make sure I have socks. (One time, I wore sandals and panicked in the parking lot. Thankfully, I was let in.) Definitely wear a bra. Nothing ‘revealing’ or ‘suggestive.’ Suggestive of what? That I am a woman in a men’s facility? Turns out that’s pretty hard to hide. And the catcalls made it clear that everyone has eyes and no baggy sweater can hide: I’m a woman inside.

I walked inside Gus Harrison Correctional Facility every week for a year. For a year I’ve been part of two successive theatre workshops. For a year I have walked inside Thursday evenings at 7pm and left at 8:30pm. Yesterday I walked out for the last time.

I was purposeful with what I wore. My shirt and pants as unattractive as I could manage. But I was also purposeful to wear something that might share some of myself without a need to exchange words. Shoes. Shoes tell something about a person. Inside and outside but perhaps they can tell a particularly important story inside.

Danny wears plain black shoes, always covered in dirt and dust. He’s a gardener. He tends and manages immense gardens, cultivating greenhouses of poinsettias and more. 5.7 always had meticulously shined shoes. They were beautiful and spoke to me of self-respect and pride.

Glover-Bey mostly wore brown boots that didn’t look like they were made for actually working in. On occasion though he wore white high tops with a glossy sheen. The day of our play he wore the high tops. They took his hunched form across the back forty. White shoes against blacktop. We walked from different points to the same destination unable to acknowledge each other on that barren blacktop, but our shoes took us to the same place. A place, if only for a moment, where we could.

My shoes too said something about me when I wasn’t allowed to say much about me.

I first always wore my Birkenstocks. I got them in eighth grade. It’s a big deal in my family to get Birkenstocks, a right of passage if you will. I wore them for ease. Easy to slide off and on in the bubble. Then I branched out one week, I’m not sure why.

I’m not sure if it was at first conscious or not that I changed my shoes. One thing I could, with some freedom, change to mix up the monotony of baggy sweaters and those same jeans. My own prison uniform. I think it was the converses next: one red pair, one with a colorful pattern. Two of my favorite shoes. I bought them in high school. The red ones are worn down, beaten by my plodding feet which hustled through the hallways and campus walkways, up many flights of stairs, through puddles and slush.

Now they carried me through the prison yard, a place my high school self would never have expected to be.

I love my red shoes. I once wrote a poem about them. The others are fresher. I’ve taken better care to not beat them up so badly and maintain that crisp new shoe look. One week I must have felt particularly feisty and I wore dark green shoes that had bright green spiky bottoms. Ricky commented, “What shoes are you wearing? I’m down with the chucks but what are those?” They’re another side of me. The spunky, wacky, stand out, side. I didn’t say this but maybe my shoes did for me.

Shoes can be controlled in a mostly uncontrollable place. They say something about a person. I didn’t notice everyone’s shoes. Most were of a uniform variety, black and simple, scuffed and broken to various degrees. Most I suppose blended with the uniform I became so accustomed to seeing that sometimes I didn’t see it at all. Except when my purple jacket laid next to a set of their same blue and orange jackets.

But some shoes stood out. I felt were prided or told a particular story. Some I could infer others still a mystery, much like the men I knew.

In a way shoes inside are just the same as outside where people wear all sorts of shoes to “express themselves” and also just practically for different reasons. When so many forms of expression are denied a person, when everyone wears ‘prison blues’ with the orange stripe across their back, down their pants, and an orange hat so bright it hurts to look at, I imagine shoes begin to mean something more. Any show of difference would. It’s so natural, so human to want to be different, special, unique.

I wish my shoes and Glover-Bey and Danny’s shoes could talk. They might speak of everywhere they’ve been with me and them, of when they were bought and why. So much of what needs to be said can’t be said inside. So much of what is said is not spoken at all. It’s said through body language and eyes. I look into a man’s eyes and my eyes are saying with all I am “I see you.” Do you see me? Just as I am. Incomplete and imperfect but I come. Every week I came. I saw you and you saw me. We knew each others shoes.

I don’t know what shoes mean inside. I can only imagine, as I can only imagine what it means to live, be, and survive in there. You don’t hear their voices or see their shoes except through the mediation of my eyes and voice. I wish you could.