2018 graduate Violet Kelly-Andrews spent about three years of her undergraduate experience with the Prison Creative Arts Project. Following her time at Michigan, Kelly-Andrews moved to NYC to work in arts education, soon getting accepted to an arts and cultural management masters program in London.
After living in London, looking at art in the UK, learning managerial perspectives with her program, and writing a dissertation, Key-Andrews went back to California earlier this year due to the pandemic.
Back home, she started to work at a small organic “hippie” local grocery store and became a shift leader for the online ordering department. Kelly-Andrews created a shopping helpers service and through her work it has become a large department of its own with many people working and managing it.
"I go and shop for those who cannot get into grocery stores due to COVID and underlying diseases, and lead these excursions,” she said.
While in PCAP
During her many years with PCAP, Kelly-Andrews led multiple workshops and was very involved in the program. Beginning her experience in a class taught by Ashley Lucas, she went on to lead a workshop at the Washtenaw Detention Center during her fall semester sophomore year.
She also traveled to South America twice as part of the Brazil Exchange Program, where students observe theater work in prisons, underprivileged neighborhoods and hospitals.
Senior year, instead of facilitating a workshop, Violet joined the PCAP office team at the Residential College (RC) as an arts administrative intern.
"I started working on a new project going through a whole archive of PCAP that they kept in the basement of the RC,” she said. "With this, me and Vanessa Mayesky worked on a bunch of little projects, where I learned a lot more about PCAP and the RC in general and tried to composite it all together."
“PCAP was one of the organizations that taught me what empathy meant and I think that is something you do not really get to dive into a lot in practice,” Kelly-Andrews said. “I learned how to widen my gaze on people’s experiences in life, how to meet people where they are and really look around and see what one can do in a positive way to be there for someone.”
Kelly-Andrews said having knowledge of the criminal justice system has been really profound in every job she has ever had.
“It is because of my PCAP experiences that I have an understanding of our justice systems,” she said. “You can be a sponge and just sit there and enjoy everything thrown at you, and all of the new information you learn is so important.”
Regarding her favorites memories in PCAP, Kelly-Andrews couldn't pick them and emphasized she never had a single bad experience with the program. "Even in those moments that were uncomfortable, I was able to learn something. PCAP has allowed me to be more active in a conversation about helping people and understanding what is going on and how to empathize and stay strong," she said.