Art by offenders
Art in prisons has a long and well-established tradition. It provides a way for inmates to express themselves, produce something of meaning or to simply help pass the long hours locked in a cell. As a open learning experience OCA is well placed to support students in prisons and over the last few years I have enjoyed working with a number of budding illustrators currently serving custodial sentences.
A highlight of the prison art calendar is the annual Koestler Awards, which aims to reward ‘creative work in the fields of literature, the arts or sciences by those physically confined’. The Awards are part of the Koestler Trust, which was established by Hungarian author and essayist Arthur Koestler in 1962. Koestler was a vehement campaigner against the death penalty in the UK in the 1950 & 60s and after it was abolished in 1965 he turned his attention to supporting ‘an imaginative and exciting way to stimulate as far as possible and in many cases as possible the mind and spirit of the prisoner‘.
The Trust has continued with that mission and this year sees the 50 th Annual UK exhibition, Art by Offenders: secure patients and detainees. Any prisoner is fee to submit their work and the exhibition has been curated by a group of volunteers who are all members of the Magistrates Association.
The exhibition runs from 22 September – 20 November 2011, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London. I know that several of my students have submitted work for consideration, so I’m looking forward to seeing if they were selected for the exhibition.