Friday, October 11, 2013

Slice of Life: Taking Art Behind the Walls of a Prison - by Sophie Boudreau

This year, I will spend some of my free time in prison. Don't worry, allow me to explain.
I recently became involved with a wonderful organization called the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) here at the University of Michigan.

The mission of PCAP resonates with me in so many ways: We believe strongly in the importance of bringing opportunities for creative writing, theater and other fine arts to incarcerated populations. Once a week, I enter a men’s prison in Southeast Michigan with one other U-M student and facilitate a theater workshop with a group of inmates. In December, we will perform an original piece of theater for other prisoners, as well as our friends and family from “the outside.”

I don’t expect everyone to understand or even support my decision to get involved with such a program. I’ll admit that I was nervous about getting involved with PCAP at first. My views of prison were similar to those shared by many: I thought of prison as a frightening, dark and dangerous place brimming with dangerous people.

So often, prisoners are viewed as the “lowest of the low.” They are written off as people who don’t deserve attention, empathy or the chance to express themselves. One of the things PCAP has taught me, though, is that compassion and love for humanity should truly extend to all people, not just those who live outside prison walls.

This is not to say that I have forgotten what it means to be in prison. I am acutely aware of the fact that my workshop participants have committed crimes significant enough to put them behind bars.
This knowledge, however, doesn’t give me reign to put up emotional walls and stop myself from forming real, human relationships with them.

I feel so lucky to have found this organization of kind, open-minded, talented human beings. I know that I’ve stepped into an experience that will radically change me. I know that things will not always be easy, but I also know that sometimes they will be wonderful. Above all, I know this: Art is powerful. Art is healing. Art is social change. Art is a human right.

— Sophie Boudreau is a graduate of Holland High School and attends the University of Michigan.

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