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What difference can art make for people in prison? The state of Michigan spends $48,000 per prisoner every year — with little to no money going towards funding for prison education, art and rehabilitation programs. The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) is an independent program of the University of Michigan that supports formerly incarcerated artists, facilitates creative arts workshops and even hosts an annual exhibition to showcase incarcerated artists’ work. PCAP was founded by William “Buzz” Alexander, the late husband of Janie Paul, the curator of PCAP and author of the book based on the project: “Making Art in Prison: Survival and Resistance”, out now via Hat and Beard Press. As you’ll hear in the program, the work of PCAP has built a vibrant community of artists inside and outside prison walls. Joining us for this conversation are Janie Paul and artist Yusef Qualls, known as Q. He was released from prison five months ago after being sentenced to life as a minor and serving 28 years. Danny Valentine is a formerly incarcerated artist also featured in the book, who credits PCAP for saving his life. What can incarcerated artists teach us about why humans make art and the power it holds? All that, plus a commentary from Laura on poets imagining Gaza.
“People in prison are treated as objects . . . is not just a hobby, it’s a way for someone to stop being an object in someone else’s world and to be the subject making choices, having pleasure and making something that is very valuable. “ – Janie Paul
“I lost uncles and aunts and cousins, my son’s mother, girlfriends, best friends . . . Art was my way of going inside myself and talking about these things . . .” – Q (Yusef Qualls)
“This whole prison system is nothing but a form of slavery. It takes advantage of the socioeconomically challenged . . . If we keep pushing the truth out there through art and other forms, we can bring this lie to the common people . . . ” – Danny Valentine
- Janie Paul: Author, Making Art in Prison: Survival and Resistance; Emerita Professor of Art, University of Michigan; Curator, Prison Creative Arts Project
- Q (Yusef Qualls): Former Juvenile Lifer & Incarcerated Artist
- Danny Valentine: Formerly Incarcerated Artist
Related Episodes, Articles and More
Click here to read the “Ceasefire Cento” poem featured in this episode.
Show Notes: Related Episodes, Articles and More
“Making Art in Prison: Survival and Resistance” by Janie Paul, Learn More/Get the Book
(*Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. The LF Show is an affiliate of bookshop.org and will receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.)
Related Laura Flanders Show Episodes:
• Emergent Strategies For Abolition: Andrea J. Ritchie’s Toolkit for Activists Watch / Download the Podcast
Related Articles and Resources:
• POEM- Mosab Abu Toha, et al: Ceasefire Cento | Vox Populi, Learn More & Read Here
“In response to an invitation in mid-October, 2023, within days writers from many communities sent their own lines or lines by others to join in the worldwide demand for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Traditionally, the cento is a patchwork or collage poem. This “Ceasefire Cento” is an urgent collective call in a time of devastation and institutional attempts at silencing. Please share it widely, read it in public, print it out, deliver it to public officials, do whatever you can to keep it going. Thank you to the contributors. Thank you for reading and sending it on. And thank you, Vox Populi!”
• Prison Creative Arts Project Visual Art Database, Read More & See the Artwork
• Art – Awakening – Abolition, by Peter Linebaugh, CounterPunch, Read Here
• By the Light of Other Suns, by Janie Paul, Gulf Coast Journal, Read Here
• The Conversation: What We Can Learn About Isolation From Prison Artists, by Janie Paul, The Conversation, Read Here
• Reading Between the Bars: An In-Depth Look at Prison Censorship, by Moira Marquis & Juliana Luna, October 25, 2023, PEN America, Read Here
Featured ‘Music in the Middle’ of the Podcast:
“Propaganda” featuring Brijean by Salami Rose Joe Louis from her album Akousmatikous released on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder record label. Listen & Learn More Here
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