Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project

The Weight of Rage, PNAP exhibition at Hyde Park Art Center, 2016

In 2011 I was invited by a long-time advocate of incarcerated people to teach at Stateville Prison. At that time, I had taught for six years at a different state prison through a community college program, but at Stateville, a maximum security prison, there were few ‘programs’ offered and there were no college-level classes. Because I had spent time with incarcerated folks I knew that the endeavor should be larger than one person. So, I organized other artists and poets to work with me and called the project Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project, with the intention of using art as a connective tissue between people locked in the prison to the neighborhoods they once resided. The project started with 2 classes: Art and Poetry. In the second semester we added a Humanities class and the project quickly grew. Ten years later, we continue to offer Art and Poetry and have hosted dozens of exhibitions, events, performances, screenings, and discussions throughout the city of Chicago, around the country and online. In addition, we now have Bachelor’s degree program through Northeastern IL University and a Think Tank. We added Education our name to reflect the wider body of work we have grown into: Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project.

Throughout this time, I have co-led the project through organizing faculty; negotiating with prison officials; annual fundraising and grant writing; and developing everything from an application process to get students enrolled in classes to directing multi-year, multi-media projects between artists inside and outside the prison. Today we are an organization of 6 co-directors, leading the three spokes of the project with a staff of 5, and a membership of hundreds of currently and formerly incarcerated people, families, friends, advocates and activists.

As a co-director (with Damon Locks) of Art + Exhibitions for PNAP, I have curated exhibitions, co-edited books, organized gatherings and much more. I have included on my “Projects” page some projects that I more intimately directed, co-led and/or created content for.