Coming to Ann Arbor: Prison Creative Arts Project offers one of the largest collections of works in the world

By Donna Iadipaolo

The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) will be displaying its 24th annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners from March 20 through April 3. This year’s show highlights works by 670 artists from all across Michigan. This project is one of the largest prison exhibitions in the world.

The Art is showing at Duderstadt Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd. in Ann Arbor.

The exhibition, with free admission to all, is an opportunity for people to experience the aesthetic skill and rich humanity of incarcerated people.

“It is a curated show. We don’t take all of the work that we see,” said Graham Hamilton, PCAP Arts Programming Coordinator. “We show good work and we highlight the talent and the emotion of people inside.”

The show features a diversity of both artists and artistic choices. Artists range in age from 18 to 80, men and women from across the state with diverse racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. There is a broad array of artistic media and subject matter, including landscapes, portraits, prison scenes, and political statements. Of the 2,215 works submitted, 670 were selected for the exhibit. Just over half will be hung on the walls, with the remainder in print racks.

Other programs include speakers from the University of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Corrections, and artists from previous exhibitions. Also, the University of Michigan Chamber Choir and members of the Exigence choir are to perform “Lifesmithing,” a piece inspired by writings from the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing.


  • Peter Sellars: Art as Moral Action; 5:00 p.m., Thursday March 21, 2019 at the Michigan Theater, 603 East Liberty

Peter Sellars is a MacArthur Genius Fellow and American theater director, who is known for his special renditions of contemporary and classical opera and plays. Sellars also earned the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize and is also a professor at UCLA, where he teaches art as both moral and social action.

  • Artist Panel: Sunday, March 24, 2019, 11:00 a.m.—12:30 pm; Duderstadt Center Gallery

Artists who displayed at previous PCAP exhibits share their stories and answer questions about their experiences as prison artists, moderated by Professor Emerita Janie Paul. Following the panel, a unique gathering for families of PCAP artists and writers, Linkage Project members, and PCAP Associates.

  • Surrendurance: Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, Volume 11, Ann Arbor Reading; Sunday, March 24, 2019, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, East Room, Pierpont Commons, 2101 Bonisteel Boulevard

Selections from the 11th edition of the Michigan Review of Prison Creative Writing is read by family and friends. Books will also be for sale. The University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club will also perform.

  • Beyond the Boom Gate: Orana Arts in Australian Prisons; Monday, March 25, 2019 6:00 p.m.

Australia’s Macquarie Correctional Center, which is in Wellington, New South Wales (NSW) is a new pilot model of imprisonment, moving away from punishment to investment in the individual, with an emphasis on education and the arts. The panel presentation will discuss aspects of management, community, artistic pursuits, and inmate standpoint. Orana Arts it the prison’s delivery partner and it uses the arts to promote engagement.

  • Keynote: “Beyond Solidarity: Dignity, Power, and the Politics of Knowledge Production,” Alan Gomez; Thursday, March 28, 2019. 6:oo p.m.

Alan Eladio Gomez is a historian, Southwest Borderlands Scholar, and associate professor of justice and social inquiry in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University.

Senior Curator Janie Paul started the annual exhibition in 1996 with her husband, and PCAP Founder, Buzz Alexander. A community-based artist and emeritus professor at the University of Michigan whose primary focus is the capacity of visual meaning-creation as a vehicle for social change, Paul has been bringing art from prisons across the state to campus each year.

For the first show, Paul and Alexander traveled to 16 prisons in Michigan to collect art. “We were just mind blown by the work,” Paul said. “We discovered it was such an important event both for the artists inside and for the community because it brought us all together.”


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