Prisoner art earns praise and a second exhibition

After a strongly positive response from artists and visitors to last year’s inaugural exhibition, Art by Prisoners has returned to the Playhouse foyer.

Conceived and organised by Flinders Law School PhD candidate Jeremy Ryder, Art by Prisoners is a project that seeks to connect prisoners in South Australian gaols with the wider community through the medium of art.

The current exhibition is open daily until May 17, and features works by 19 currently serving prisoners.

The project is supported by the Department for Correctional Services, the Adelaide Festival Centre and the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights, and draws its judges from staff of Tandanya, the Adelaide Festival Centre, the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Flinders University Art Museum.

The show has a mixture of works by previous and new contributors.

After last year’s exhibition, more than 120 comments were left by visitors, Mr Ryder said.

“There was a sense from the audience feedback that the exhibition did build empathy, and did make the audience think about people in prison. It seems to have been a powerful experience for a lot of people who saw the exhibition,” Mr Ryder said.

Mr Ryder said he had conveyed the overwhelmingly positive public response to the participants.

“Their ability to have an emotional impact on the public had a resonance for the prisoners,” Mr Ryder said.

Mr Ryder said that comments from the prisoner artists had focused on the relief from stress and the sense of well-being that came from working on art: “They felt they were spending their time productively,” he said.

Mr Ryder said that more than 200 votes were cast for the people’s choice award, and that all the contributors whose works were highly commended and commended by the judging panel received certificates.

Proceeds from sales of the pictures had been divided between Helping Young People Achieve and Victim Support Service.

Mr Ryder said that creating art was not an activity officially embedded in the prison system – where it is available, access to material and space remains a privilege rather than the norm.

While Mr Ryder is now beginning to analyse the data he has collected to complete his PhD, he hopes the exhibition will continue into the future.

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One thought on “Prisoner art earns praise and a second exhibition

  1. That’s a great initiative; helps lift the minds and spirits of the prisoners and helps them process their feelings too. Assists the general community see that prisoners are human too and have something positive to offer.

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