University of Michigan annual prison art exhibition now on view

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – The 28th annual Prison Creative Arts Project Exhibition is on display at the Duderstadt Gallery on the University of Michigan’s North Campus. 

The event is the culmination of a year’s work by university staff, students and incarcerated artists in facilities across Michigan. 

“Twenty-four prisons are represented here from across the state,’ said PCAP programming coordinator Emily Chase. “So, we visit all those prisons in the fall, try to meet one-on-one with the artists, talk to them about their creative practice, and then bring the best work here for everyone to see.” 

In total, 479 artists are featured in this year’s exhibition, with 750 unique art pieces. 

Earlier this year, CBS Detroit went inside Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility with PCAP staff. 

Some pieces they selected on that visit now line the gallery walls. 

Unlike on the outside, artists in prison have limited access to art supplies. Many turn to using found objects and materials to create their work. 

“This one is actually really cool,” says Chase, holding up a sculpture. “So, it’s made with soap and acrylic paint and some other materials he used to make it into clay. And it’s an anatomically correct brain and skull. And what was really cool about the conversation with this artist is he color-coded all these different things, and he was talking about how much he learned about anatomy and how the brain works when he was making this.” 

READ: Inside the University of Michigan’s 28th annual prison art show

The gallery is open to the public. 

During the week, university community members stop by on their breaks between class and meetings. 

“I’m just surprised how detailed all of these pieces are and how they each have a unique expression,” said student Somya Valecha. “I think it’s super important to give these prisoners a voice, especially when society forgets they even exist.” 

Assistant professor Albert Berehas says this is the fourth year he has visited the exhibit. He shared that he had already purchased two paintings, which have political messaging throughout. 

Much of the artwork is for sale, and pieces that have been sold have a red sticker next to them.  

Chase said that so far, they have sold more than $18,000 worth of art. 

Artists set their asking price, and they receive the funds from the sale. Many choose to use the funds to buy more art supplies to continue participating in the exhibition each year. 

The exhibition will be open through April 2. 

The Duderstadt Gallery is located at 2281 Bonisteel Blvd. in Ann Arbor. 

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