Digital Exhibition Designers
Prison Creative Arts Project Curators
Prison Creative Arts Project Staff and Faculty
This year we celebrate Annual Exhibition co-founder Janie Paul as she publishes her book, Making Art in Prison: Survival and Resistance. In it, Janie introduces readers to the culture and aesthetics of prison art communities, and shares heart wrenching, poignant, and often surprisingly humorous artists’ narratives.
For 27 years, Janie has traveled throughout Michigan to meet artists and select work for the project she co-founded: The Annual Exhibitions of Artists in Michigan Prisons. Pedagogical as well as curatorial, the project has provided crucial validation for the artists. Making Prison Art features over 200 images of their extraordinary work.
Delving deeply into the ways in which incarcerated artists create meaning through their artistic practice, Janie explains how the making, sharing, and formation of artistic friendships within prisons can constitute acts of resistance against the violence and banality of prison life. Most of the artists did not make art before coming to prison. Their accomplishments show that art making need not be a privilege of the few, but is rather a basic human need, and in these circumstances, a necessary means of survival.
Making Art in Prison reveals—through the eyes of the artists who have lived through it—what mass incarceration looks and feels like in the United States. It reveals the ways in which they keep their humanity intact; it invites us to reflect on our own humanity and the problem of living in a country that incarcerates more of its population than any other nation in the world. It also invites us to look closely at the images and appreciate the richness of life and luminosity emerging from the darkest corner of our country.