Measuring the impact of the arts within prison

 

From January 2014 I have been artist in residence at HMP Send, Surrey.

I mentor a group of 10 female inmates.

Prisoners are issued with ‘volumetric boxes’ in order to store their personal possessions over the duration of their sentence.

The size of these black cardboard containers sets the limit for their official quota of physical possessions in the prison.

In the event of cell searches or relocation, inmates are required to store everything they own within the confines of the box; additional material is forbidden.

The box structures are a representation of each of the members of the Watts Art Group – their presence, their individual personalities, their creativity – each reduced to a symmetric symbol imposed by their circumstances, into which once a week, I am allowed a small window.  

An installation is created with the same boxes laid out in the gallery- displayed and lit as artistic pieces.

 ‘The group’ is interposed within the classical surroundings of the gallery space, surrounded on all sides by the socially engaged paintings of George Watts, and housed overall within the bigger Watts Trust, with its ethos of The Arts as a vehicle for social transformation.

 

Photo Credit: Emma Brown