Write a Response Letter
PCAP artists greatly appreciate and benefit from critical feedback from viewers of the exhibition. The Prison Creative Arts Project solicits critique letters for our artist community from practicing artists, art teachers, art students, and others with a strong background in the visual arts. If you would like to provide a response letter to an artist in the Annual Exhibition, please follow the instructions below. If you have any questions about the response letter process, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guidelines for Response Letter Submission:
- Find a piece by an artist you would like to write to. Our goal this year is to have 100% of the artists receive a letter. For this reason, please respond to an artist who has not yet been written to yet (many artists have more than one piece in the show). Pieces that have already received a letter are labeled by a GREEN dot in the gallery, and marked on this spreadsheet.
- Once you’ve selected a piece, fill out your name, contact information, and instructor name (if applicable) in the same spreadsheet.
- Write your response. Guidelines for content and a sample letter are below. If possible, please type your response to maximize legibility. In the past, people have observed the work, written a rough draft, and then typed it.
- Copy the artwork log number, artwork title, and artist name in its entirety on the header of your letter. Use this as the file name of your letter. (E.g.: 655-20 _Country-Western Ants_Rodeo Cholo)
- Please sign the letter only with your first name. We are not permitted to send your letter to the artist if it includes your last name.
- Email the letter(s) as attachment to email@example.com. If your letter is handwritten, please email a clear image/scan of the letter or mail it to the PCAP office (1801 East Quad, 701 East University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48109).
Responding to the Artwork:
When you are writing the letters, keep in mind that this might be the only feedback the artists are getting. Prison is often a place of judgment & criticism, please be sensitive to the context in which they will be reading your response. Try to focus on your connection to the piece and what makes it strong & successful. Please prioritize being as specific as possible and not overusing generic phrases such as “Your work is great”. Think of someone responding to your work; what kind of feedback would you want?
Be aware that any suggestions that come from someone from outside prison carries a lot of weight. Don’t tell the artist what to do or what direction to take, but ask questions that may provoke artistic experimentation and development. If, for example, the drawing is all in a very light value, you could say “Standing in front of your piece, I picked up on all the lighter, more subtitle details. Did you intentionally want to create a light effect? Do you experiment with a range of lights and darks in other pieces?”
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Include a brief (1-2 sentences max) intro, prefacing your background with art for context.
- Share your connection with the piece. How does it make you feel? Initially, what stands out the most to you? Over time, what do you notice?
- Identify the strengths you see in the piece and/or what makes it successful. What are some themes that you see in the artwork?
- If you have a background in the arts, you may also include technical aspects you respond well to such as style, composition, line quality, color, contrast, use of materials, content.
- A special note on content: For many artists, this is the first time they are putting something out there that is personal and meaningful. It is also one of the only ways to communicate from prison. Be positive & supportive.