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UBB

A few months ago, you may recall, I mounted a show in a brewery in Seattle. It was a prison art fundraiser organised by University Beyond Bars and an appended exhibition of prison photography from Washington State – including the work of Bettina Hansen, Tim Matsui, Steve Davis, Cheryl Hanna-Truscott and Erika Schultz.

During the opening, there was a couple of filmmakers snagging folk for interviews and trying to make sense of what college education can do for a prisoners’ community and why an art auction and photography show can bring those ideas to the public.

Well, the resulting video has just been published. It’s not the slickest media production you’ll find but it is earnest and the film recognises the work of the many individuals and volunteers who quietly work to make prisons more humane and hopeful.

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When friends call and ask if you’d like to mount a show in a brewery, there’s only one answer.

University Beyond Bars was putting on a prison art fundraiser at Machine House Brewery in Georgetown, Seattle. I was invited to curate some prison photography. I selected five photographers from Washington State that have made work in Washington State prisons and juvenile detention centers.

The only issue with the space was that IT IS A BREWERY. A beer-making space is set up for a different type of cultures.

The UBB students’ prison art (paintings and illustrations) went up front of house. The space for the photographs was the warehouse. Upon arrival on Friday afternoon, the ground floor and mezzanine boasted fork lift truck, pallets of malt and barley, industrial fridges, old lockers, busted furniture, spare fixtures, lamps, chairs, bikes and other inconvenient objects.

So I went to work. And I loved it. Painting and drilling is a nice tonic to desk-laptopping.

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This is pretty much what the space looked like when we finished. (Note the clear floorspace.) When I say we, I mean me and some amazing peeps who swept, nailed, primed, sweat and hung prints and frames. Big thanks to Bill the Brewer, UBB‘s very own Stacey Reeh, and Joe.

Uber-thanks to Bettina Hansen who went without a shower and worked right through until the doors opened on Saturday night to get everything spiffy.

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Here’s Cheryl Hanna-Truscott’s work Protective Custody.

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These are the first two prints of 16 in Cheryl’s series.

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Three of the five photographers’ work was mounted straight onto boards that doubled as screens to hide all the junk alongside the walk-in refrigerator.

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That beard on the right is Matt Mills McKnight.

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Bettina sporting the DIY-casual fashions, next to the photographs she made for the Seattle Times of The Freehold Theater’s Engaged Theater Program at MSU, Monroe, Washington.

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Steve Davis peeking into the walk-in.

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Erika Schultz and Tim Matsui.

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More of Cheryl‘s.

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Intern Sam, Kat and I.

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Images 9-16 of Cheryl’s work.

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I even painted the bathroom door.

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Signs were made. Bottom steps were marked.

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On Thursday, Steve Davis had given me some work prints to look over for a future project we are planning. They images were made by boys at Maple Lane juvenile detention center and have never been published. Strong, haunting and expressive. I decided to tack them up on a single wall in the old, emptied-out machine-house office.

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Looking in to the office from the gantry at the top of the stairs.

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UBB co-founder, Gary Idleburg, speaks to a video crew making a piece about perceptions of prisoners and the importance of art as communication.

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One large print from Remann Hall (left) and work prints made by boys incarcerated at Maple Lane, Centralia, WA in the early 2000s.

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On the mezzanine level, six portraits from 1998 by Steve Davis.

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Large prints of pinhole photographs made by the girls of Remann Hall, Tacoma, WA.

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A frame …

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… for a frame.

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The fluorescent lights were actually pretty good for showing off the work.

Portraits & Pixels: Photography in Washington State Prisons remains open for three more weekends. Until August 10th. The brewery is only open Friday 3-7pm, and Saturday and Sundays 12-7pm.

Erika Schultz

Student of Univeristy Beyond Bars, Monroe Correctional Complex, 2011 © Erika Schultz

IF YOU ARE IN SEATTLE …

Opening on Saturday, 20th July is Prison Art an art auction fundraiser for University Beyond Bars (UBB), the prison education I worked with from 2009-2011.

Accompanying Prison Art is a photography component I was invited to curate. Titled Portraits and Pixels: Photography in Washington State Prisons the exhibition features five photographers working in Washington State and making images of Washington State lockdowns.

AND IT’S IN A BREWERY!

ART BEYOND BARS

At Washington State Reformatory, students in a Studio Art class, sponsored by the nonprofit organization University Beyond Bars and led by long-term prisoner-artist Gary Thomas, have created oil, acrylic, and gouache paintings as well as pencil and ink drawings in styles that range from the political to the retro, from the kitsch to the abstract.

You can see a local KING 5 newschannel spot on Gary and the class, here. (Turn the sound down to avoid the over-zealous sound-editing use of cliche clanging doors and locks!)

80 pieces feature in the Prison Art show ranging from nearly pocket-sized to large triptych paintings. All are for sale and proceeds go toward paying for the college education of UBB students. The silent auction lasts two weeks.

‘Portraits and Pixels: Photography in Washington State Prisons’

Young mothers, critical thinkers and children making powerful art may not be the first types of people we’d expect to find behind bars, but Portraits and Pixels challenges our notions of who is behind bars in the Evergreen State.

Portraits and Pixels: Photography in Washington State Prisons brings together images by five established local photographers to provide an overview of arts, rehabilitation and security in Washington State’s lockdowns.

Bettina Hansen, a Seattle Times photojournalist since 2012, photographed the theater productions at Monroe Correctional Complex. In 2011, Erika Schultz, also of the Seattle Times, volunteered her skills and made portraits of students in the UBB art program at Monroe. Tim Matsui, a Seattle-based multimedia journalist, casts a light on the Youth Art Program at the Denney Juvenile Detention Center in Everett. In the early 2000s, Steve Davis led workshops in four Washington State juvenile detention centers producing pinhole camera photographs and narrative-rich images with the children. Davis also made formal portraits of the boys and girls. Nurse-midwife, Cheryl Hanna-Truscott has made dignified and quiet double-portraits of incarcerated mothers with their newborns at the Residential Parenting Program at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor. The pioneering program is nationally recognized for its commitment to maintain ties between mother and baby by means of rigorous administration, family and volunteer efforts.

The exhibition will be open to the public from July 21 until August 10 during the brewery hours: Fri-Sun 3-7 pm.

OPENING NIGHT, July 20th, 7:30 – 10 pm

Prison Art is hosted by Machine House Brewery, at 5840 Airport Way S in Georgetown, just south of Seattle.

Tickets are available here. Tickets are $15 each, or two for $25.

There will be live music by singer-songwriter Lori Dreier, cellist Ed Tellman, and keyboard artist and former prisoner Dan Pens.

Facebook event page here.

IMAGES

SteveDavis

© Steve Davis

Bettina Hasnsen Prison Theatre

Daemond Arrindell, teaching artist for Freehold Theatre’s Engaged Theatre program, gives words of encouragement to inmate Ted Cherry after a rehearsal at Monroe Correctional Complex April 17, 2013. “They are the most appreciative population we’ve ever worked with,” said Arrindell, who is a local poet and community organizer known for running various writing and performance workshops and the Seattle Poetry Slam. “They recognize what limited opportunities they have.” © Bettina Hansen/Seattle Times

Tim Matsui

Cell Denney Juvenile Detention Center in Everett. © Tim Matsui

Mother and child in the Residential Parenting Program at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. © Cheryl Hanna-Truscott

Prison Art Seattle

Hansen, Bettina

The Seattle Times reports some enlightened thinking at the WA DOC:

Washington state is at the forefront of a national re-examination. Instead of facing nothing but forced solitude, Washington inmates in solitary units — called Intensive Management Units, or IMUs — are increasingly being let out for hours to attend classes, see counselors or hit the gym.

It is a clear move to the left in prison management, but one that Washington prison managers say is rooted in data. More emphasis on rehabilitation appears to calm behavior in the prison, and cuts violent recidivism on the streets, experts say. It is also a cost-saver: Solitary confinement costs about three times as much as keeping a prisoner in general custody.

Let us hope other states follow the example.

Photo by Bettina Hansen/Seattle Times. Caption: Earnest Collins says he’s open to change after fights twice landed him in the Intensive Management Unit at Clallam Bay. “If you’re not mentally strong, it’ll drive you crazy,” said Collins. “You hear a lot of crazy things in IMU.”

I’ve seen Bettina Hansen a few times in recent months (she’s a recent transplant to Cascadia) but never once did she think to mention this awesome photo.

Maybe I got sucked in by the fact it is A FRIKKING MONKEY RIDING A SHEEP DOG IN SOME MUDWORLD MAMMAL OLYMPICS! … maybe the photo is a document of animal misuse. It’s mad-bonkers.

Either way, this photo of animals being forced to do unnatural things under the watchful eye of humans seemed to say more about the Angola Prison Rodeo than the thousands of images I’ve seen of people at the Angola Prison Rodeo. It’s a weird event.

See Bettina’s full set from the Angola Prison Rodeo.

(All of this explains the title to this interview with me from ages ago. I never understood the title at the time.)

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

@BROOKPETE ON TWITTER

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