REVIEW: 28th Annual Exhibition of Artists in Michigan Prisons

[Title photo: Kings Gambit by Marte’nez Sr.; Acrylic]

The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) is an initiative through the Residential College at The University of Michigan with a mission dedicated to bringing those impacted by the justice system to the U-M community for artistic collaboration, mutual learning, and growth. The program hosts a variety of workshops in visual art, theater, choral music, photography, and more. The Duderstadt Gallery is hosting an exhibition of a year-long collaboration with PCAP featuring art by incarcerated artists.

To produce the gallery, the PCAP community visited 24 adult prisons throughout the state of Michigan to handpick the selection of art being presented. During their visits, the volunteers review artwork and have the opportunity to discuss and exchange insights with artists, fostering a profound understanding of the intent behind each distinctive piece.

[30 Animal Granny Square Blanket by Douglas Bail]

The gallery intrigued me with the inherent individuality behind each piece. There were paintings, pencil drawings, sewn creations and figurines—and more! There was truly a collection of artistic mediums and untold stories.

[Boxed In by THE TEXAN; Acrylic, Canvas]

The gallery is open until April 3rd, and the hours of operation are listed below. Much of the art is for purchase at a variety of price ranges, from $35 to well over $500. There are many resources located at the gallery with ways to get involved with PCAP and other community and outreach groups in Michigan at the University and beyond. I left the gallery with the quote from the welcome guide ruminating through my mind:

“Art has truly saved my life. It has broght light in a place designed to keep us in the dark. It allows us to tell our story, or express how we feel not having to say a word. Art gives voivce to the voiceless…”   —DaJuan



Gallery Hours:

Sun & Mon 12PM – 6PM

Tues – Sat 10AM – 8PM


More about PCAP here.





[Piano Jewelry Box with Drawer & Bench by Kimmy L. Emig; Wood]

REVIEW: 26th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

This diverse exhibition is definitely worth checking out.

Themed art exhibition makes you form prior expectations before you visit the place. The exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners made me expect a heavy exhibition with a lot of social messages, life in prison, and emotions. This turned out to be a prejudice: the exhibition was full of diverse artworks using various mediums and exploring different themes and topics. This proved my prejudice to put their current location over who they were as an artist. As if the exhibition already expected people like me to have this prejudice, the exhibition emphasized and invited the viewer to see the people behind the artwork. The visitor could write on the guest book which will go straight to the artist. Also, a computer was placed so that the visitor could search the artist’s art statement. Every artwork is marked with a price that the artist had decided on and the visitor could purchase artwork on the spot.

Here are a few of the artwork that showed well the themes shared by some artworks. I chose them not because they were better than the others but because these are the ones that I spent more time viewing.

‘Living the Dream’, John Riley
‘Popsicle Stick Chess 2.0’, Ryan G
Left: ‘Identity’, Johnetta Sullivan                  Right: ”An Old Memory (from before worst decisions & mistake)”, L. Wheeler







Quite a few artworks showed the relationship between real or imagined spaces and the artist: it could be their dream houses like Joh Riley’s ‘Living the Dream’, or a scene from their memory. Some directly addressed their current state as being imprisoned: imagining freedom or reunion with their family. There were also portraits that seemed to be of the person that the artist know. Also, I was amazed to find out that wooden popsicle sticks could create amazing artwork-some of artwork had created highly detailed sculptures with popsicles sticks, like ‘Popsicle Stick Chess 2.0’ by Ryan G.

Another factor why I was aware of the artist behind the artwork more in this exhibition compared to other ones is because of the knowledge that the majority of the artists were not trained in art. This made me focus more on why the artist would have chosen this medium and topic as the focus of their art. If the artist is a professional artist, I think they will choose something that is closer to their professional identity as the topic of the art. However, if the artist is a non-occupational artist who produces limited drawings, then you start to link the meaning of that specific piece with the life of the artist, drawing from a broader area than just personal identity.

The exhibition continues until April 5th. If you can’t visit the Duderstadt center before that date, you can see the artwork online here.