Sacred Heart Academy in Flintridge

Our eighth art exhibit was part of a much larger event called "Faith and Hope Beyond Prison Walls" . It was held by the Office of Restorative Justice at Sacred Heart Academy in Flintridge to benefit Families of the Incarcerated and the Partnership for Re-entry Program (PREP)

It turned out to be a wonderful combination of diverse groups and artists. PREP exhibited well over 100 pieces of art done by men and women in the prison population under the California Arts in Prison Program; it was an amazing display. The California Arts Club (est.1917) also participated with beautifully framed landscapes, portraits, still life, and much more. There were about 50 pieces from the club and all the artists came and spoke with the "art-goers". We brought art from the Pelican Bay SHU from our longtime artists, and new art, which we are now showing under anonymous labels. See below for more information.

The Office of Restorative Justice set up a beautiful food table and held a silent auction. This was their first benefit art fair, but they are going to make it an annual event

There were over 250 attendees: families of men and women in prison, people who volunteer at the CA Youth Authority, and who were anxious to bring back any of the art work and artist bios, to inspire the teens they work with, ministers, teachers, people who work within the prison system and...lots of artists.

There was a lot of discussion at all the exhibits and much of it turned to the humanity behind the art, the rehabilitative aspect of creating art and the value it gives the artist. I met many interesting people, and as always, learned more about the growing concern for the incarcerated and the debilitating effect it has on all our communities.


ARTISTS WHO MUST REMAIN ANONYMOUS

When the "Art Behind Bars " exhibit first opened in 2004 it began as a joint project with Jack Morris, the artist who first suggested the idea that the Pelican Bay SHU artists were part of our community and wanted to present their art. It soon became a project with 10 artists from the SHU, whose art and statements became more popular with each showing. Art Release created a website featuring the artists, their art and words and information on the SHU and forthcoming events.

After each show, reports on the shows were sent to each artist. Their feedback and reactions were essential to the success of our future shows.

By early 2006 the artists received warnings from the prison that their activities with Art
Release and the exhibitions were in violation of rules prohibiting the "engaging in revenue generating activities". With the gracious help of the National Lawyers Guild, Art Release received permission from all artists to begin accepting only donated art from them and guaranteed to the warden that no payment would be made to any artist/inmate for his art.

We continued with the shows, abiding by our promise. By October, 2006, all inmate/artists were charged with violations of the above rules. They had hearings, but could call no witnesses outside the prison. They were all found guilty and the verdict was entered into their files. None of them are allowed to communicate with Art Release. Margie Ghiz of Art Release was denied communication and visiting privileges for one year. According to Warden Horel, "This decision is based on your participation in assissting Mexican Mafia and Nazi Low Rider prison gang affiliates in activities...relating to unauthorized business dealings..." We have always maintained that exhibition of these artists' works is an excersize of their First Amendment right to free speech.

Attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild and former Assemblyperson, Jackie Goldberg held phone meetings with the the CA Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitations trying to work out a compromise where we could resume communications with the artists and continue the shows. The Warden never responded

In the last year and a half, most of our original art has sold; many of our original artists are no longer represented, because we have lost contact. Our website will insure that their words and art are still "available", but we had to look to other artists for the shows. These anonymous artists are all in solitary confinement, in Pelican Bay and other CA prisons.