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Prison Arts Collective (PAC) believes in art as a human right and the capacity of art to cultivate community and positive change. PAC is dedicated to expanding access to the transformative power of art to people experiencing incarceration through partnerships with California state universities. PAC is headquartered at San Diego State University with partnerships at CSU San Bernardino, CSU Fullerton, and Humboldt State University. PAC evolved out of socially-engaged art and community advocacy. Through University-Prison partnerships, PAC draws on the expertise and research of faculty, the energy and enthusiasm of students, and a dedicated staff to provide visual and interdisciplinary arts programming in California prisons. PAC is influenced by liberatory pedagogy and principles of restorative justice. 


PAC’s programs include:

  • Arts Facilitator Training for incarcerated peer-leaders

  • Guest artist workshops

  • Multidisciplinary arts classes


PAC is founded by Professor Annie Buckley and evolves in collaboration with students and faculty in the California State University system and artists incarcerated in California prisons. In early 2013, then a professor of Visual Studies at California State University, Buckley, visited the California Institution for Men, a state prison in Chino, with students to discuss starting an art program. At the time, Buckley was just starting a new service learning class to expand access to the arts in the local community while providing college students with service learning opportunities. Buckley and her students were impressed by the deep curiosity and hunger to learn that they found among the incarcerated population as well as the institution’s eagerness to support an art program. With the support of her department chair, Margaret Perry, Buckley developed a plan to have the students teach in pairs, leading multiple simultaneous classes in a space in the prison that was already staffed with correctional oversight. The plan allowed for the students to go together as a team, for the incarcerated participants to have a choice of classes, and for the class to take place without any extra cost to the prison. This visit resulted in an 8-week pilot that was so well received that the program has continued to evolve ever since, expanding to more yards at that prison and ultimately expanding to prisons across California in partnership with other Cal State University campuses. 


PAC is a project of Arts in Corrections, an initiative of the California Arts Council and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), CDCR Innovative Programming grants, and three Grants for Arts Projects and one Research in the Arts Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.




Photos by Peter Merts

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