U-M Prison Creative Arts Project sells $27,000 in artwork

This year, the show highlighted the work of 575 artists from 27 facilities in Michigan.
by Fernanda Pires, fpires@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—Artists in Michigan prisons will receive about $27,000 in sales from the 24th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. The exhibit is one of the largest exhibitions in the world of work by artists who are incarcerated, organized by the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP).  

This year, the show highlighted the work of 575 artists from 27 facilities in Michigan. It brought 672 paintings, sculptures and three-dimensional works created in prison to the public realm. A total of 2,300 pieces were submitted.

The show featured a diversity of both artists and artistic choices. Artists ranged in age from 18 to 80, men and women from across the state with diverse racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. There was a broad array of artistic media and subject matter, including landscapes, portraits, prison scenes, and political statements.

"I have been curating this exhibit for twenty five years and I am always exhilarated to see the artists work and to talk with them on our selection visits. I am in awe of their resilience and ingenuity," said Senior Curator Janie Paul.

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.

Half of the 670 pieces were sold in two weeks, with proceeds going directly to the artists. Last year, the show, supported by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, generated $24,580 in sales.

"I think we’ve put on the best exhibition in PCAP’s history, but this year I think the art and all of the events connected to the exhibition were truly extraordinary," said  PCAP's Director, Ashley Lucas. "I feel humbled and grateful to be a part of this exhibition because we get to see such extraordinary talent and beauty that so many others never know exists.”

More about PCAP: www.prisonarts.org.

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