Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Auburn screening highlights arts in corrections in Alabama!

Hello Auburn! My first stop with Concrete, Steel & Paint on the Southern Circuit. The film's theme of arts in corrections was certainly a prominent feature in the post-screening discussion. Arts in Corrections is alive and well in the state of Alabama due to the tireless dedication of individuals like Kyes Stevens, Director of the Alabama Prison Art and Education Project (APAEP) and Jeannie Thompson, Director of the Alabama Writers Forum (AWF). I had been in touch with both of them prior to arriving in Auburn. I was fortunate that they were both available to attend my first screening of the tour, held at the Jule Collins Museum of Fine Arts. APAEP is headquarted at Auburn University - in the Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts. It is a remarkable program dedicated to bringing educational programs in the arts and humanities to prisoners in Alabama. It's an important resource for the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) and a favorite of Dr. Eddie Lancaster, Reentry Coordinator for the Alabama DOC who I had the opportunity during my stay. He is trained as a forensic psychologist, and lauds the importance of visual tools in prison settings as a pathway to higher learning and therapeutic self-expression. Pictured below, he proudly displays APAEP's traveling exhibit in the corridors of the DOC's downtown Montgomery office.
The Alabama Writers Forum serves the literary arts community in Alabama and through their work have developed a special partnership with Alabama's juvenile justice community. They manage "Writing Our Stories: An Anti-Violence Creative Writing Program" on three Department of Youth Services campuses. The Forum also collaborates with APAEP and other organizations to also serve adult prison populations. Having both Kyes and Jeannie present for ‘Concrete, Steel & Paint’ was an asset. “This is the best film I have seen about the struggle and strife between prisoners and crime victims, and that is very hard to capture," says Stevens. Thompson follows up by adding how well the film illustrates the power of art as a tool for dialogue. Their knowledge about arts in corrections programs contributed to the discussion. They also provided the audience with more information about their organizations and opportunities to connect with their work for anyone interested to get more involved. Thank you, Auburn, to the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art and to all of the film's friends and supporters who helped spread the word to everyone who joined us. It was a wonderful evening.
Pictured above (from left to right):
Kyes Stevens, Director-Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project;
Scott Bishop-Director, Jule Collins Museum of Fine Art; Cindy Burstein-Director/Producer, Concrete, Steel & Paint; Sheriff Jay Jones-Lee County;
Jeannie Thompson-Director, Alabama Writers' Forum