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“When educational institutions make “CUTS” in their budgets, the arts are the first thing to go. When availability to the arts is taken away, so is our avenue to being creative. If we have no space to be creative, we have no outlet for release. An individual's right to grow, heal, and work through trauma should not have to be found decades later while sitting in prison. Yet for me, that is exactly what happened. I was broken, ashamed, and defeated. But all that changed when I was afforded a safe space to be creative. I created so many different pieces. I look back now and it amazes me how creating a “piece” is what brought me “peace.” Finding healing from my past traumas could not have taken place without the arts. Now I feel a deep sense of obligation to help others find that same peace. 

~Wendy Staggs, PAC Alumnus/Advisory Board Member, Creator of Project Alice

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Project Alice is a community-based program of Prison Arts Collective (PAC). Project Alice invites individuals who have been released and reintroduced to society alongside their families, friends, and allies. Project Alice aims to reduce stressors and barriers present during the reentry process by facilitating safe spaces that help build relationships and openly engage communities through the transformative process of art making. Art can be a path to both individual and community empowerment. Through teaching comes learning, and the art making process is as valuable as the product. Project Alice values art as a form of storytelling and believes everyone has a story worth telling. 

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Photos Courtesy of Peter Merts

Stan Hunter, PAC Alumnus, Teaching Artist

Wendy Staggs, PAC Alumnus, Advisory Board member

In Loving Memory of
Alice Buckley


Project Alice is inspired by Alice Buckley, an artist and longtime advocate for youth in the juvenile justice system. Alice recognized the transformative potential of sharing space with people who are marginalized and wanted to offer opportunity for them to imagine, create, and share ideas and possibilities. She reached out to Homeboy Industries and was introduced to an alternative high school in Dolores Mission, where she volunteered to teach art to youth who were impacted by gangs. From there, she became a volunteer with Catholic Detention Ministries at Central Juvenile Hall where she visited youth at least once a week for 17 years. She brought art and books and conversation, and most of all, Alice wanted to help the youth to see themselves, not only the challenges they faced, but their talents and interests and all that they could become.


Project Alice was created by Wendy Staggs, an alumnus of Prison Arts Collective and a member of the PAC Advisory Board, in honor of Alice Buckley upon her passing. Wendy is a writer and advocate who was formerly incarcerated. During that time, her daughter was in foster care; they are now reunited. Alice is the mother of Annie Buckley, founder of Prison Arts Collective. Though Wendy never met Alice, she told Annie, “I know your mom because I know you.”

"Our family of children being thrown away by a system and community that doesn't think they belong. Alice ALWAYS made them know they belonged... She gave them every moment of her time and attention when she was with them. She brought art into our facility (how shocking) because she knew the power of healing and beauty in art... and she never failed to brighten a child's eyes with a project or help someone recognize a talent they didn't know they had." 

~Cheryl Bonacci, PAC Advisory Board Member & Non-profit Executive


Photos Courtesy of Peter Merts

Project Alice is the community and reentry arm of PAC and it has grown and evolved with the support of a dedicated steering committee from the PAC team including: 


Annie Buckley, MFA, Founder and Director, PAC; Professor and Director, School of Art + Design, San Diego State University


Siena Buckley, MSW, PAC Volunteer


Maeve Cassidy, art therapist and PAC volunteer

Negeen Farida, Ed.M, Human Development and Psychology, Harvard Graduate School of Education, B.A. Psychology and World Arts and Cultures/Dance, UCLA, PAC Volunteer


Elise Moersch, Ed.D, Director of Development, College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, San Diego State University, and PAC Advisory Board member


Jamie Pelusi, PAC Program Assistant, SDSU


Azadeh Shladovsky, Multi-disciplinary Artist & Designer, Founder & Creative Director, Azadeh Shladovsky Studio, and PAC Advisory Board member


Bella Smith, artist and PAC volunteer


Wendy Staggs, artist, writer, and PAC Alumna and Advisory Board member. UCLA project manager for the Beyond the Bars Fellowship


Sophie Vradelis, PAC Communication and Outreach Coordinator

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