The University of Oregon Prison Education Program is running an exhibit featuring pieces created by 20 artists incarcerated in prisons throughout Oregon.
The exhibit, called “Emergence: Art From Inside” will run throughout spring term and is located in the EMU’s Adell McMillan Gallery on the second floor.
The gallery is the result of a collaboration between UO Prison Ed, the Visual Arts Team in the EMU and the Oregon Department of Corrections, which assisted in getting the art out of the prisons and onto campus.
“My cohort of interns had the idea,” said Jordan Pickrel, an intern at UO Prison Ed. “We brought it to Katie Dwyer [the program coordinator] and Shaul Cohen [the program director], and they were supportive. They helped set everything up with the DOC to get the art, and then helped us along the way in creating the show.”
Pickrel’s group had the idea a couple of years ago, but it was not until this year that UO Prison Ed was able to hold the exhibit.
“We spent some time looking to try to find venues, and nothing was really working out last year. This year we were super fortunate to get linked up with the visual arts team at the UO,” Pickrel said. “They worked with us to make it doable.”
Bringing anything in or out of a prison can be complex, due to a large amount of rules and regulations; however, Pickrel says the support of the DOC was instrumental in getting the art out without too much difficulty.
“Getting the art out wasn’t a huge challenge because the DOC was supportive,” Pickrel said. “The hardest part actually was identifying the work,”
The collection on display includes a variety of media:. Pencil sketches, paintings, photography and even collages can be seen in the gallery. All of the pieces share an origin within one of Oregon’s prisons, but they utilize many themes and styles. No one piece is alike.
“While the works in this exhibition are far from simple, together they flow as a cogent and complex whole despite being created and collected without definitive thematic guidelines,” according to post about the exhibit on the UO Prison Ed website.
“Knowing that [the art] comes from people who are in prison, everything seems to take on a different meaning,” said Kate Walters, a sophomore who viewed the gallery.
While some of the art was completed in prison hobby shops, Pickrel says other pieces were done with whatever materials prisoners had at hand. Some drawings done with pen or pencil alone reflect the limited materials prisoners had access to.
Once the art was removed from the prison, it could not be taken back in and the pieces will ultimately find new homes once the gallery is over.
“All of the artists in this show donated these works to us with the understanding that they won’t be getting them back,” Pickrel said. “We’re planning to sell the art after the show is complete. The money raised will just go back into the program to help fund educational opportunities in Oregon prisons.”
The gallery can be seen throughout the spring term, and more info can be found on the UO Prison Ed website.