AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project has been awarded a $10,000 grant to support art appreciation in some of Alabama’s prisons.
The project, which is part of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University, is largely dependent on grants to support educational opportunities for those in prison. Director and founder Kyes Stevens said the grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation marks the first time grant monies have been sought to specifically support the art appreciation course.
“This grant helps us build a national network of supporters for the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project and aligns Auburn University as a significant contributor to helping prisoners gain educational experiences that can contribute to self-development and awareness and inspire further educational endeavors,” said Stevens.
The Joan Mitchell Foundation was created in 1993 as a way of honoring the late artist’s legacy by supporting the aspirations and development of diverse contemporary artists.
Stevens said the idea of offering art appreciation emerged in 2004, two years after the project was established. When the first drawing course was offered, she said people in prison not only exhibited a desire to develop specific skills in the visual arts, but also to learn about art through historical and sociological lenses and how that specifically shapes their understanding of their own work as artists.
“When instructors would bring supporting texts to class, most often art history or books about specific artists, students could not pull themselves away,” she said.
In casual surveys within visual arts classes, they found only one or two participants out of hundreds who ever had a chance to study the history of art, its influence on society, its vital role in expressing and contributing to social movements and concerns, and how that impacts artists and their work.
The current class template consists of 14 weeks of classes and two and a half hours of instruction each week. Class size will likely be between 20 and 25, depending on the facility that hosts the class and what space is available.
Since 2002, the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project has partnered with the Alabama Department of Corrections to offer quality and sustained educational programming to those incarcerated within ADOC facilities. Classes include the arts and humanities, science and engineering. This semester, the project is in half of Alabama’s 18 correctional facilities.
(Written by Amy Weaver.)