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Prisoners’ Art On Display At Oceanside Museum Of Art

Photo by Promise Yee

A dollhouse wood sculpture created by James Fox, an inmate at Donovan state prison, July 9, 2015. The sculpture is on display at the Oceanside Museum of Art.

Photo by Promise Yee

“Art Transports Us Out of Bounds: Prison Arts in San Diego” co-curators Tara Centybear and Laura Pecenco at Oceanside Museum of Art, July 9, 2015.

Photo by Alison St John

A piece in “Art Transports Us Out of Bounds: Prison Arts in San Diego” at the Oceanside Museum of Art, July 11, 2015.

Inmates of Donovan state prison in San Diego created the artwork for a new exhibit at the Oceanside Museum of Art.

At a reception for a series of new exhibits this weekend, visitors to the museum crowded into a small, cell-sized gallery to view the creative result of Project PAINT: The Prison Arts Initiative.

The exhibit is entitled “Art Transports Us Out of Bounds: Prison Arts in San Diego.” Most of the 100 detailed pencil drawings and sculptures in the exhibit are displayed in a 6 by 9 foot space, the size of a prison cell for two inmates.

Bars partition the exhibit, and an audio loop of prison sounds mentally transports viewers to the men’s maximum-security prison where the artwork was created.

Laura Pecenco is the exhibit co-curator and founding director of Project PAINT. She initiated the art program in the prison as part of her Ph.D. studies in sociology at UC San Diego, after she found out California prison arts programs had been defunded in 2010.

Project PAINT began as a pilot project and went on to be funded by a state grant for the last two years.

Pecenco said studies show that art programs reduce violence in prisons, create a safer environment for prisoners and staff and decrease the number of inmates who return to prison after release.

Pecenco added that she has observed that art provides inmates a safe place to express themselves, push beyond prison social boundaries and strengthen their connections with others.

Promise Yee is a North County freelance writer. Contact her at promise.yee1@gmail.com. Twitter: @promisenews. Facebook: promise.yee.1

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