Imagine being sentenced to prison and spending long days and weeks, months and years without the ability to express your creativity. Many incarcerated inmates face day to day boredom, which can contribute to an eroded sense of self-worth and confidence.
The Prison Creative Arts Project was founded in 1990 whose mission is “to collaborate with incarcerated adults and youth as well as urban youth and formerly incarcerated citizens to strengthen community through creative expression.”
“The advantages of growth for the prisoners spill over to their families in allowing them to see their loved one gain self-confidence and pride and shed what can sometimes be overwhelming feelings of despair and destitution.”
The staff, volunteers and founders of the Prison Creative Arts Project, believe that all humans have the ability to create art–through visual art, music, dance, theater, writing. They also believe that artistic expression should be available to everyone, whether you are incarcerated or free. They believe that art is necessary for individual and societal growth, connection and survival.
The Prison Creative Arts Project currently works with correctional facilities, juvenile facilities, urban high schools and communities within the state of Michigan. The Prison Creative Arts Project allows prisoners to exhibit their works to the community and to fellow inmates, through art exhibits, spoken word presentations, dance, theater and poetry readings to name a few. To quote one prisoner, “You made me feel like a real person after almost 9 1/2 years of being merely a number and an unwelcomed burden on society. The consideration and respect you offered was every bit as encouraging as accepting my work for exhibit.”
The Prison Creative Arts Project creates a safe place for prisoners to begin to express their creativity. Many prisoners begin their creative journey not knowing how and where to let loose their creative expression. The staff and volunteers help each prisoner find their inner creativity and to gradually be able to interact with fellow inmates. This space helps inmates reacquaint themselves with other humans and ultimately with society. As one formerly incarcerated inmate states, “the The Prison Creative Arts Project has allowed me to see the humanity of my fellow inmates.”
One staff members feels that creating art, exhibiting it and being rewarded for their creative expression, gives prisoners something more to be remembered by than just being a faceless, nameless number in a system that has them incarcerated at the worst time of their lives.
The Prison Creative Arts Project gives inmates hope, self-confidence and meaning to their lives, which they are then able to share with others. Here is a video that interviews Prison Creative Arts Project artists and volunteers.