Social Sciences Department
BA in Sociology
This research paper aims to examine how artists in prison have been impacted from creating art while incarcerated. Previous research has shown that participating in the arts while incarcerated can help the individual create a new identity for themselves. The formation of this new identity can help the individual with rehabilitation because they find a new purpose for their actions and future, and they change their behavior to be accepted to the artist subgroup. Art also provides other benefits that help with improving their personal skills, interpersonal skills, and character improvement. To demonstrate how the arts help incarcerated individuals cope and rehabilitate, an art exhibit was organized between Cal Poly and the California Men’s Colony. The purpose of this exhibit was to destigmatize incarcerated individuals by showcasing their talents and stories. This art exhibit featured over 60 art pieces from 34 artists from California Men’s Colony. From this exhibit, all artists submitted artist statements about themselves, detailing information like their personal background, inspiration for art, and future goals. These written statements were used as data for the research, to find common themes between art and incarcerated artists. It was found that there were commonalities in using art for coping, self-expression, self-improvement, and gift giving. All these themes demonstrate how the artists have learned practical skills from their art and have used their art to better themselves. It is suggested that learning these skills can help the artist successfully reenter society because they feel they can positively belong to a community and they have a positive skill to fall back on, rather than any negative or criminal skills.