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(Photo courtesy: MiraCosta College)

Art Created by Prison Inmates to be Exhibited at MiraCosta College

Oceanside CA— Art is everywhere. Even in prisons.  At least that is what Project PAINT: The Prison ArtsINiTiative wants to convey.

What began as part of a doctoral thesis in 2013 is now an arts program held at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. The program conducts various free art workshops and projects for inmates as part of rehabilitation.

“Project PAINT is a visual arts program that is meant to be a very open environment in which participants can use art to create a dialogue,” said founding director of Project PAINT, Dr. Laura Pacenco.

The program has achieved tremendous growth over the years and support from many local individuals.

“People are very supportive of the project. There are those who are really moved by the artwork, then we have those who want to volunteer to help with the exhibitions or promote the exhibitions,” said Dr. Pacenco. “It feels wonderful that the community can come together around an issue like this that affects all of us.”

Still, Dr. Pacenco has received skepticism about the program and its mission.

“We often don’t think about the connection of prisons to our society, to our everyday life,” said Dr. Pacenco. “The vast majority of people who are incarcerated are released back into the community and that really behooves us to offer such programming that can help them transition back to a life of normalcy.”

Much like a job, interested inmates go through an application process where they communicate how truly invested they will be in the program. Those who are accepted pick out classes, participate in class discussions where they verbalize the process of art creation, complete writing assignments and finish pieces by given deadlines.

The whole process of creating artwork helps inmates escape beyond the walls and has garnered a lot of attention. Needless to say, there is a high demand for the program.

“We can only have up to 24 people in a class and many are on a waitlist,” said Dr. Pacenco. “They are really trying to not be judged just as prisoners, and creating artwork for the community is one of the ways they feel they can give back.”

Dr. Pacenco hopes to expand the program and offer additional classes at various correctional facilities.

An upcoming exhibit at the MiraCosta College Kruglak Gallery, aptly named Conviction, will showcase works created in classes, including representational and abstract pieces in various styles.

“The title not only describes the background of the people who created the artwork, but also conveys the extreme dedication and their willingness to push through what society thinks of them,” said Dr. Pacenco.

Dr. Pacenco also hopes the exhibit will give individuals an insight to a place they do not think about on a daily basis.

“Prisons really do impact our entire community. The criminal justice system is a big topic and just to be able to see the other side of that than what the media portrays is really important.”

Conviction opens March 15 and continues through April 14 in the college’s Kruglak Gallery. A panel discussion with the curators and a reception will be held Wednesday, March 16, 6–8 p.m. Admission to the gallery, panel discussion and reception is free and open to the public.

MiraCosta College’s Kruglak Art Gallery is located in the Oceanside Campus Student Center, Bldg. 3400, located at 1 Barnard Drive. The Kruglak Gallery offers a diverse range of contemporary exhibitions of interest to both students and the general public. Gallery hours are Mondays/Tuesdays, 2:30–7:30 p.m. and Wednesdays/Thursdays, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Gallery is closed March 21–25. For additional information, contact gallery director Diane Adams at 760.795.6657.