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Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America


Phyllis Kornfeld
Phyllis Kornfeld

Artist and educator Phyllis Kornfeld will present a lecture and slide show: Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America, based on her book by the same name, on Tuesday, April 17, at 7 p.m., in the Red Pit. The talk is free and open to the public.

Kornfeld has taught art to incarcerated people for 35 years, in venues ranging from county jails to maximum security prisons.

After graduating from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Kornfeld taught art in a variety of settings – K-12 to junior college, experimental public school projects, golden age centers and museum classes. In 1983 she applied for a job teaching art to prisoners and war hired to teach classes at three Oklahoma state penitentiaries.  Kornfeld said she was hooked and impressed with the art the inmates had produced without the benefit of art class or real supplies.

Kornfeld will share anecdotes and describe how the incarcerated turn to their work for a sense of self-worth, an opportunity to vent rage, or a way to find peace. As in her book, she will share how the artists deal with the cramped space, limited light, and narrow vistas of their prison studios, and how the security bans on many art supplies lead them to ingenious resourcefulness, as in extracting color from shampoo and weaving with cigarette wrappers.

This event is sponsored by the Dean of Faculty; Jurisprudence, Law and Justice Studies; the Digital Humanities Initiative; and the Literature and Creative Writing Department.

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