In 1977, a pilot project, called the William James Association Prison Arts Project was begun at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, Ca as a vision from Eloise Smith to bring the magic and mystery of the art experience to incarcerated prisoners. From this vision the Arts-in-Corrections in conjunction with the California Department of Corrections was establish, only to be terminated in 2003, due to budget crisis.
The Prison Library Project is honoring this tradition by having a mail art exhibition on October 2012 and is inviting inmates, families and those who look to improve the lives of incarcerated friends and family to participate in this unique fundraiser.
The show is titled Postmarked and was inspired by colorfully decorated envelopes from inmates across the country requesting books and dictionaries. These inmates use an envelope as a creative canvas to share their art.
Postmarked is using the show as a way to remember and reconnect with the magic of mail and lovely postage stamps. The show also is helping the prison population, often an unheard group, share their art in the only medium that they can – with envelope, letter and pen.
The Arts in Prison Program, throughout several prisons in Kansas and Missouri, create life changing programs for prisoners – using art.
The Arts in Prison program believes that the practice of art in a group setting can greatly enhance positive thinking habits and and behaviors for prisoners and that these attitudes and self-adjustments can help with successful re-entry into society.
The mission statement of the Arts in Prison program is to: provide educational and personal growth opportunities through the arts for inmates, volunteers and community to motivate and inspire positive change. This program is designed to induce positive behavioral changes in inmates – this is very profound – as positive change can change imprisoned people into successful, participating, contributing members of the community that they will be released into.
The Actors Gang is an educational organization that strives to improve the lives of youth and adults that have challenging economic and social issues to deal with. Their “Dead Man Walking” Play Project engages their students in theology, philosophy and law classes that address the moral issue of the death sentence. The Actors Gang prison project utilizes actor volunteers to help provide in-prison theatrical training to inmates.