Annual exhibition showcasing artwork by prisoners returns to University of Michigan this month

U-M’s Prison Creative Arts Projects celebrates 27th year

Artwork titled "Even in the Dark, There's Beauty." (Daniel Teribery)

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan Prison Creative Arts Project will unveil its annual exhibition on March 21 at the Duderstadt Gallery.

The 27th annual Exhibition of Artists in Michigan Prisons is one of the largest exhibitions of its kind in the world, according to a release.

The event will run through April 4 and will feature 645 pieces by 360 artists from all of Michigan’s 25 prisons.

Visitors will be able to see a variety of artwork, from painting, metalwork and jewelry to sculpture, drawing and woodworking. The work is created in collaboration with PCAP curators and facilitators.

Of his work titled “The Weight of Time,” artist Chris Levitt from Kinross Correctional Facility said the depiction of a man crawling on the ground in his painting is an interpretation of his experience.

Painting titled "The Weight of Time." (Christopher Levitt)

“I wanted to paint the figure in a way where it is not clear if he will get back up,” Levitt said in a release. “I often feel like I’m not able to get back up and continue on.”

Each year, 18 U-M students and curators visit the prisons to select the artwork from October to January. During the trips, they ask to speak directly with the incarcerated artists, provide feedback and analyze their art and choose which works to display in the exhibition, according to a release.

“Art selection trips are a key component of PCAP’s mission of putting human connection at the center of what we do,” PCAP arts programming coordinator Emily Chase said in a statement. “In the moments when PCAP volunteers are talking to artists who are incarcerated about their art, no one is a prisoner or student, or young or old, or skilled or unskilled. They are all just people--people sharing interests, thoughts, jokes and opinions.”

Sarah Herbert-Johnson, a social work graduate student, was one of the team members who helped select work for this year’s show.

“Engaging with incarcerated artists challenges the dominant narrative of punishment,” she said in a statement. “The deep conversations with talented people make me rethink society.”

Artwork titled "A Patient Man." (Albert Krakosky)

PCAP community engagement specialist Sarah Unrath echoed Herbert-Johnson’s thoughts on how the process impacts one’s perspective.

“It gives me goosebumps walking in the gallery, that precious arena that exudes the whole gamut of emotions of what it means to be human,” Unrath said in a statement. “The interactions are authentic. It’s something you just can’t shake.

“Whether through revelations during workshops and undergraduate courses, the powerful experiences of art selection trips, or the radical community of Linkage, PCAP seeps into the fibers of your being and changes the way you do life.”

Aside from taxes and fees, all proceeds from artwork sales go directly to the artists.

The exhibition is free an open to the public. Duderstadt Gallery is located at 2281 Bonisteel Boulevard on U-M’s North Campus.

Gallery hours:

  • Sunday and Monday: Noon-6 p.m.
  • Tuesday through Saturday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

An opening celebration reception will kick off at 6 p.m. on March 21 and will feature speakers from both U-M and the Michigan Department of Corrections.

For more information about U-M’s Prison Creative Arts Project, visit

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.