Arts Lab Experimental visual arts for social change

Human kindness in crisis foreshadowed in prisoner art show

Aside from the fundamental need to hold onto our health, the current global crisis has highlighted more than ever what really matters in our lives: human connection; empathy and kindness; role and purpose. Add laughter to this, and it pretty much sums up the lessons that came out of Arts Lab’s February exhibition of prisoner artwork.

Inside Out at Arts Lab, Dartington in South Devon, UK, was a rare opportunity to see artwork made by prisoners at HMP Dartmoor. The exhibition – an outcome of almost 2 years’ work – was part of the Lab’s National Lottery Community-funded Great Prison Art Exchange project. It brought together artwork from workshops inside the prison, individual pieces created in cells between sessions and work started in the prison and finished outside by Arts Lab artist Sara Downham-Lotto.

The show brought in more than double the visitors of any previous Arts Lab exhibition. Folk came from far and wide, curious and supportive in equal measure of ‘the good work’. Too many in depth conversations to count took place in front of the artwork, much of which wouldn’t have looked out of place in any metropolitan contemporary art gallery. Generosity  of spirit and an eagerness to support the continuation of the project was reflected in the number of donations and artwork purchases. 

Needless to say, back in the prison, the prisoners were proud as punch to see photographs of their work on show for all to see; prouder still to learn that some of their pieces had sold, supporting the continuation of our work together.

Apt news the same week: Arts Lab was awarded a grant from Matrix Causes to get some of this remarkable work sold online. Support too has been given to provide mentoring for a recently released member of the GPAE setting up his own social enterprise supporting creatives inside and beyond.

For more information about the Great Prison Art Exchange plus images from the Inside Out Exhibition, click here >>>