Acts of Art, a documentary by Katherine Weider about PCAP's Annual Art Exhibitions
This project is sponsored by the University of Michigan School of Art and Design. A production of Michigan Television and the School of Art and Design. Writing, production and music design by Katherine Weider.
Witnessing Prison Art: A Curator's Reflection on a Decade of Art by Michigan Prisoners
Created and written by Janie Paul with art by incarcerated men and women in Michigan prisons.
The most important benefits of PCAP’s annual exhibition are to the artists themselves and their families. The show encourages prisoners to develop their artistic talents and offers constructive opportunities for growth and self-expression. One artist from last year writes that “I feel growth in my artwork and in ‘Who I am.” This exhibition gives me a goal, helps my self esteem.” A family member of an artist writes that “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.” Another family member writes: “You have given hope and are a voice to the unseen. On March 22, 2005 my father will no longer be a number, but instead you have made him an artist. I am thrilled to see that someone else believes in his work.”
Testimony from the Artists:
From over here on this side of the wall, you all have made many of us feel human once again. Thank you so much for that.
In a world where “most of us operate alone without loved ones or friends,” the Exhibition:
gives us the opportunity to be a part of something real
gives us a chance to appeal to a world that in other ways sees us as failures
is the stepping stone in my life
has now opened up a whole new world to me
gave me more than what I gave to a life
raises “confidence” and “dignity” and “pride” and “a sense of self worth that I didn't have
before this art program!”
has given many of us a new hope and direction for a brighter future
is a dream come true
In this exhibition there is a sense of purpose that goes farther than simply submitting, showing and selling art… I feel I belong to something much bigger than myself as an artist. I actually have to think in order to create original work, and there is little doubt in my mind that not to do so would be to atrophy mentally.
It seems it can’t get any better but that would be a lie. Because it pushes me to come stronger and better due to what you and they feel when stepping into a room for the first time, or how many time and see raw emotion silently crying out to all whom eyes fall upon it.
You help us to maintain our identity in a world of uniformed sameness where little opportunity to be seen as an individual able to be creative and productive is available.
I was proud that my work was selected, and proud to have represented all of those lost souls that have been underestimated for years.
I have been down for eight years now and have never heard or seen of anyone coming forth in such a way to help up lift so many souls, by helping one, by giving him/her more meaning in life than what they once held.
I believe that your program gives the public a glimpse into the type of things that inspire even the most downtrodden of us all. When people see our work, for a few moments, they forget that this work was done by a felon, but by another human being. A human being who has the same thoughts, emotions, and inspirations as they do. And for that one moment, a major social and political barrier is shattered.
I think the public has a perception of prisoners as dangerous, callous, mentally and socially inept. Your exhibition proves that prisoners, like all people, have many facets, that some are artistically gifted, and that their art, springing from the depths of their souls, conveys the passions of people who have experienced life in its darkest and its brightest moments.
I received a critique from a student that purchased one of my paintings. It was a surprise and I cherish it. It is very encouraging to hear from the real world. I don’t feel acceptable as a human in here and that restored a little of that.
It felt as if I was given life from each word written from an unknown person whom felt grate pleasure from something I, created. Though I felt no one would like what it is I see and talk out through my hands on paper made me feel alive.
I just want to say thank you. You’ve allowed me, a lost soul, to show people the hidden emotions I never let anyone see. You give me a reason to keep moving forward with my art. Just for taking time to think about all us prisoners you deserve some kind of award.
I would not be an artist if not for this exhibition.
Everyone has gone much, much farther than we could have expected.
From start to finish I have been amazed at your attention to detail and
communication with us.
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.
I was overwhelmed. I haven’t felt so thoughtfully attended in 10 years.
Thank you for seeing the good in us and taking the time, resources and all you
could do to give the sightless sight.
Thank you all who have done so much for so little in return. You are an inspiration.
No body is helping like you people are.
What you’ve started is absolutely priceless.
I would not be where I am today if not for this show!!!!
THANK YOU ALL FOR MEANING IN MY LIFE!!!
Thank you for letting me be me.
Without it, what would we have?
Before [my son] knew about and participated in the workshops, it was pretty bad being there. He had no hope of what to do with his life. He's always had artistic talent, but he did not have the confidence to pursue it. That has all changed. Both he and I see a future for him. There is really no way to say thank you to all of the people who provide this opportunity. I see it as one of those master card commercials, where there is a cost, then another cost, and then the result....Priceless. (mother of an artist)
[The art pieces] are absolutely beautiful. PCAP has really outdone themselves in promoting the wonderful works of our incarcerated artists. I can only speak for those who have been at [the facility I work at], but they're VERY proud of their accomplishments and appreciative that you have given them the opportunity to show their "human" side. You've been ahead of the game and I'm hopeful that our new re-entry program will help others to identify and embrace their talents and positive qualities that will allow them to be successful in their emergence back into the "real" world. Thank you for all you do.