Art links prisoners with the outside world

JR smallNow in its fourth year, Art by Prisoners – an annual exhibition of works by serving prisoners in South Australian gaols organised by Flinders PhD student Jeremy Ryder – has its own dedicated space for the first time.

The 70 entries, submitted from all but one of the State’s eight prisons, are currently on show in the Artspace Gallery on the Festival Centre Plaza.

The exhibition will be officially opened today (Friday, April 10) by the State’s Correctional Services Minster, Mr Tony Piccolo.

Mr Ryder (pictured), who started the project as part of his PhD, said that the show, and the whole concept of prison rehabilitation, was enjoying heightened public interest as a result of the publicity around the experiences of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran during a decade on death row in Bali.

Mr Ryders said he was very aware that rehabilitation was not a matter of “add art, then shake”.

But he said that art, as well as changing people’s perceptions of prisoners, does play a cathartic role for those who make it.

“By giving them something to focus on, it takes them away briefly from the prison environment: it gives them a mental break while giving them a sense of achievement,” he said.

“This is a rare opportunity to put the focus on what they can do, whereas prison puts the microscope on what they have done.”

As part of his criminology PhD thesis, Mr Ryder has collected hundreds of responses from the public to the exhibitions.

The project is supported by the Department for Correctional Services, the Adelaide Festival Centre, the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights and the Koestler Trust in the UK.

The works have been judged by staff from the Yuggorendi First Nations Centre at Flinders, the Adelaide Festival Centre and the Flinders University Art Museum, and some are for sale, with the proceeds used to meet the exhibition costs and to support victims of crime services.

Art by Prisoners is open from 11am to 4pm from Wednesday to Sunday, and runs until May 10.

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