A painting of sailboats on the Hudson River, barbed wire swirling at the bottom of the canvas.

Image: “View of the Hudson River from Sing Sing,” Anthony Papa | Huffington Post

A new exhibit on Governors Island will be showing artwork from United States prisons until September 27th. The exhibit, titled “Escaping Time,” shows over 200 art pieces from imprisoned artists around the country, highlighting the cathartic, therapeutic effect art can have on inmates. The art show is a production by Safe Streets Arts Foundation, and organization that helps inmates recover through art.

This exhibit is a special one because each art piece, some of which are credited to Charles Manson, includes a handwritten letter written by the artist. While the art can speak for itself, as art so often does, the letters from the inmates highlight their struggle and to the struggle of many inmates attempting to reintegrate into society, says GovIsland.  Additionally, the art show will display statistics about the current state of prisons in the United States as well as videos from President Obama discussing the need for prison reform.

A Huffington Post article by Anthony Papa speaks of his personal experience as a former inmate and of his relationship with art. During his imprisonment, Papa discovered his own artistic talent and was able to show some of his work shortly thereafter. “Two years later, New York Governor George Pataki granted me executive clemency. I hope my story can become a guiding example to other prisoners who are imprisoned that use the arts to survive the experience,” he says.

The curator of the exhibit, Anastasia Voron, Director of Exhibitions at Wallplay, speaks of the importance of art creation in the prison environment and of its rehabilitative power. “Art offers prisoners a new conviction that, although their circumstances may seem inescapable, their memories, experiences, and hopeful dispositions are preserved,” she says. “The complexities of incarceration in the U.S. penal system are reminders that time is not of the essence.”

As discussions about prison reform and the function of prisons as a whole continue to grow, art shows like this that focus on inmates’ struggles and the recovery process help us better understand inmate experiences. The show is open on weekends from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. on Governors Island, Noland Park Building, #6A.

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