Prison Art is Rehabilitation
The charity and social enterprise has worked with around 7,000 prisoners and ex-prisoners worldwide in creating art in all manner of mediums: embroidery, quilting, and furniture and needlepoint wall hangings. It has created pieces that now hang in Kensington Palace and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Arts patron Agnes Gund of America has collected many of these works made by prisoners to use in her Agnes Gund’s Art For Justice Fund. She is attempting to help fund criminal justice reform organizations by obtaining the works so she can resell them to institutes such as Drawing Center, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and the New Museum. Some of contemporary arts big names, such as Ai Weiwei, Wolfgang Tillmans, Annie Morris, Carolina Mazzolari and Idris Kahn, have collaborated in creating these different forms of art.
Beginning in March 2020, Sotheby’s featured eight pieces from Fine Cell Work up for silent auction.
The organization also helps place ex-prisoners with jobs upon release, through its Open the Gate program. Within the last year alone, they have provided experience, training and opportunities and helped to place 25 former prisoners with jobs.
“Fine Cell has helped me get through over twelve years behind a cell door,” said one of the prisoners in the program. “It’s given me a sense of purpose and taught me so many new skills. Showed me that I’m not worthless, not useless, that I can learn, I can be creative, I can make things of beauty that other people appreciate.”