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Updated 10:00 AM March 24, 2008
 

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Exhibit reveals life, creativity behind prison walls

An upcoming exhibit will highlight artists and activists as they strive for social justice through the creative arts.
The Creative Lighthouse, above, by Frankie Lee Davis, is among hundreds of pieces on display at the 13th annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. (All photos courtesy Images Prison Creative Arts Project)
Little Girls Jumping on Bed is by Curtis Chase.
Weathered (Self-Portrait) is by Robert Dockter.

The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) celebrates its 13th annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners March 25-April 9 at the Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd.

This year's exhibition is curated by William "Buzz" Alexander, the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of English language and literature at LSA; Janice "Janie" Paul, assistant professor of art at the School of Art & Design; and Jason M. Wright, lecturer in American culture at LSA.

The show will feature artwork from more than 40 prisons throughout the state. The curators, PCAP Administrator Rachael Hudak and various volunteers travel to these prisons to hand select the strongest work from the artists. As a result of this annual event, the amount of art created in Michigan prisons has increased dramatically, and Michigan prison artists have become national leaders, inspiring others to create art behind bars.

The PCAP will premiere the new Michigan Television (PBS) documentary "Acts of Art: The Prison Creative Arts Project," soon to be broadcast statewide on Michigan PBS stations. The documentary, by filmmaker Katherine Weider, will screen at 4 p.m. April 6 in the Chesborough Auditorium, followed by a panel of formerly incarcerated artists who will discuss their stories of creating art behind bars.

Over the past decade, this nationally recognized show has grown to be the largest exhibition of prisoner art in the country. This year will include more than 300 works of art by more than 200 artists, shedding light on the talents to be found behind prison walls and inviting the public to bear witness to the prison artists' creativity and expression, organizers say.

An opening reception is planned 5:30-8 p.m. March 25 in the gallery. Formerly incarcerated artists who now have re-entered the community will speak about what the show means to those in prison.

Despite limited resources, exhibition artists create work in a rich range of styles, media and themes. Last year, almost 4,000 people attended the exhibit.

Along with the documentary and discussion with former prison artists, the exhibition will be accompanied by keynote speeches by critically acclaimed youth activist Luis Rodriguez, poet Judith Tannenbaum and Shawnna Demmons from the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. Ashley Lucas will perform her one-woman show "Doin' Time," both at the Performance Network in Ann Arbor and at the Detroit YMCA.

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