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The Prison Arts Collective is committed to academic activism through the facilitation of multidisciplinary collaborative art programs in prisons. We support the development of self-expression, communication, reflection, empathy, and community through integrated arts that include art history and visual culture, art making in multiple disciplines, and individual and group reflection.

The Prison Arts Collective is based on interdependence and mutuality. Both those that are incarcerated and our teaming team encounter and co-create opportunities to create, express, and collaborate that constitute paths to deeper awareness, imagination, freedom of consciousness, and positive transformation.

This project was founded in 2013 by Professor Annie Buckley together with students and alumni. It began with a successful partnership between CSUSB and the California Institution for Men. Since that time, CBA has evolved the PAC to include partnerships with additional correctional institutions and collaborations with other CSU campuses and community colleges. The combination of institutional, community, and individual support is vital to the continued evolution of the PAC. We believe in harnessing the powers, talents, and support of all involved to support creative transformation.

Our growth is organic by design. We grow where and how we are needed and are able. We envision continuing to grow our weekly programs in state prisons and fostering community partnerships. 


We support other CSU campuses and community colleges in connecting with local prisons to create lasting partnerships in the arts. We provide a model, structural support, and opportunities for collaboration through shared resources and a chapter model. 


We believe in the capacity of art to change lives for the better. We see it in the facilities when we work with our participants. We read it when they reflect on the art experience. We experience it through the interaction with one another and with our participants.

We believe that every individual is vital and every voice matters. We are dedicated to collaborating to facilitate programs that grow organically out of the needs and interests of all of those involved. We create structures to support consistency and growth.

We value the knowledge, talents, and experience of our participants. We work to support their artistic growth at whatever stage they enter the program. We teach beginning, intermediate, and advanced classes and offer opportunities for participants to co-teach based on their readiness and experience. We seek regular feedback from participants and others involved and integrate their ideas into our development and programming.

We believe that change and growth can happen and that the structure of the institution can support these processes. We are based in the California State University San Bernardino and partner with university, college, and community organizations to develop programming within institutions in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. We understand that we are invited guests of CDCR institutions and work within their guidelines and policies to facilitate successful art programs for inmates.

We envision being part of the shift away from thinking about incarceration in a strictly punitive way and work with CDCR towards the active integration of more opportunities for rehabilitation and learning. In addition to facilitating programs inside, we share art and writing created by participants with the public through exhibitions and publications.

This project is facilitated by artists, writers, faculty, and teachers at all levels of professional development, from widely exhibiting artists and published authors to undergraduate and graduate students with special training to work collaboratively to facilitate art in prisons. We value contributions from all involved and create opportunities for mentorship and mutual learning. We are guided by principles of community-based art and restorative justice and believe that the creative arts can foster better communication and be tools for individual rehabilitation and communal and societal reparation. 


We believe in art as a human right with the capacity to make a difference in how we understand ourselves and the world around us. We are committed to expanding access to the arts through collaboration and mutual learning that supports the development of self-expression, reflection, communication, and empathy.


Photos by Peter Merts

“I learned that you can make a passion into your life

goal and people will learn from you as you see the world. Art is in many ways a reflection of the unknown.”

–Class Participant, California Institution for Women (CIW)

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