Midnight Special Art Exhibition
In November, 2003, Jack Morris, an inmate in California’s first supermax prison (the SHU) at Pelican Bay, heard that our bookstore the Midnight Special in Santa Monica, was a center for community literature and art. Jack proposed a show of drawings by six inmates and a reading of some of their poems as a way of giving a face to these members of our community, and possibly highlight some of the problems and dangers of the criminal justice system.

Another important aspect of this proposal was to let people know about PROTECT, a prisoner run organization (of some of these artists) designed to help at risk youth.

The SHU artists sent me 29 drawings and 10 poems. Beverly Walton, a curator and friend of the store, organized, framed, hung the exhibit and designed our front window; Lorraine Suzuki, a professional graphic designer did all the graphics for the art, leaflets and signs, and compiled a book of poetry. We invited Ruthie Gilmore, USC professor and author of “Golden Gulag”, a new book on the prison system, to speak and, Luis Rodriguez, author of many poetry books and the best seller “Always Running”, to read his and the prison poetry.

Most importantly, we worked with four members of the inmates’ families for months to organize the event.

The exhibit opened with a reception on April 25, 2004. The response was a wonderful surprise for all of us--over one hundred people attended. Family members and friends provided food and wine and 2 of them said a few words. Our speakers were well received and stayed to speak with people. Over one half the drawings sold during the month long exhibit and our guest book was filled with interesting and moving comments.

Ruthie Gilmore

Luis Rodriguez