Inmates explore higher education through IU Prison Arts Initiative

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News at IU on 2/23/2023

“It took me somewhere else, and I could forget about where I am for a while and get lost in creating,” Putnamville Correctional Facility inmate William W. said when asked how he felt while making art. William was one of 20 students who participated in “Drawing Your Story,” the first class offered by the Indiana University Prison Arts Initiative.

Art by Nick D.

The initiative began during the fall 2022 semester as an outreach partnership facilitated through the IU Arts and Humanities Council with initial sponsorship from the IU Center for Rural Engagement. The program’s goal is to provide a college-level visual arts course for incarcerated individuals with high school diplomas and an interest in higher education.

IU Prison Arts Initiative program coordinator Oliver Nell is working toward his Master of Arts in arts administration in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He drew inspiration for the program from the Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project, administered by his undergrad alma mater, Auburn University.