The Prison Creative Arts Project showcases paintings, sculptures and drawings by the incarcerated

For the last quarter of a century, plus another year, the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), out of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, has organized an Annual Exhibition of Artists in Michigan prisons. This year the exhibit runs from March 24 – April 4, 2023. I have seen this exhibition in a previous incarnation before COVID-19. It is as mind-blowing and universe-expanding as prisons are devastating, violent, and parasitic. The PCAP project and the annual exhibition are a testament to the incarcerated artist's determination and creativity and the collaboration between the University of Michigan community and imprisoned people in Michigan prisons.

"Three hundred sixty unique artists inside 25 Michigan prisons are collaborating with the University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP), to showcase 645 pieces of art including paintings, three-dimensional creations and drawings….This exposition is the world's largest display of its kind, where underground art meets academic exhibition."

Janie Paul and Buzz Alexander founded PCAP in 1990, with the Art Exhibit debuting in 1996. The mission of PCAP is to bring "those impacted by the justice system together with the University of Michigan community for artistic collaboration, mutual learning, and growth. We are a program of the LSA Residential College. Founded in 1990 with a single theatre workshop, PCAP has grown to include courses, exhibits, publications, arts programming, and events that reach thousands of people each year."

Six core principles guide PCAP. "1. We believe everyone has the capacity to create art. 2. We place human connection at the center of our process. 3. We join with community partners in the movement toward social justice through the arts. 4. We welcome all people who wish to join PCAP's work into our community at the University of Michigan. 5. We recognize the power of diversity and intersection between different parts of society to create learning opportunities. 6. We celebrate artists, writers, and performers at all skill levels and provide support for artistic growth."

As explained in Buzz Alexander's obituary in 2019, "Each year [the exhibition] features a diversity of both artists and artistic genres. Artists range in age from those in their late teens to senior citizens. They are men and women from across the state with diverse racial, ethnic, socio-economic backgrounds and identities. There is also a broad array of artistic media and subject matter, including landscapes, portraits, prison scenes, and political statements."

You might not be able to make it to Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, during the exhibition, so the good people at PCAP have created an online portal to access the digital exhibit.

Check out the book Making Art in Prison: Survival and Resistance by Janie Paul, where she tells the story of PCAP in a gorgeous book with 235 full-color images.

Check out this presentation by Ashley Lucas about theater and art inside prisons. Dr. Lucas is "the current director of Latina/o Studies [at the University of Michigan], former director of the Prison Creative Arts Project, a founding member of the Carceral State Project, and a co-primary investigator on an archival project called Documenting Criminalization and Confinement."