Inside Insights: San Quentin Arts in Corrections
Inside Insights: San Quentin Arts in Corrections will showcase some 100 works including 25 original paintings, prints, and sculptures by San Quentin inmates who are part of the Arts in Corrections (AIC) program; 15 works by Arts in Corrections instructors; 25 photographs by Peter Merts of inmates participating in painting, performances, theater, and music; works by former San Quentin inmates from the AIC program who are now citizens, and more.
Arts in Corrections is based on the belief that when institutionalized individuals participate in the arts their self-esteem and outlook on the world is significantly affected. Art workshops teach self-discipline, problem-solving, teamwork and concentration; the skills acquired through participation in the arts are translated to other aspects of one’s life. The Prison Arts Project, started in 1977, was the original model for Arts in Corrections, a statewide California prison arts program which helped lower recidivism (return-to-prison rates) and improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of incarcerated people, their families, and the larger community.
Research indicates that participants in the Prison Arts Project are less likely to have disciplinary problems while in prison and are more likely to be successful upon parole. Current research suggests that art classes provide a haven for inmate artists to learn and create art with others, build bridges between races and cultural groups, and help students maintain connections with their family.
San Quentin Prison Arts Project was established through the original 1980-2010 Arts in Corrections program, which was part of the Department of Corrections. After the program ended due to statewide funding cuts, San Quentin’s program continued through the dedication of its teachers and the hard work and fundraising of Steve Emrick, former Artist/Facilitator at San Quentin, and Laurie Brooks, executive director of the William James Association. Its continued program helped to revive the current Arts in Corrections, now administered through the California Arts Council.