Arts Communities

Beyond Prison Artist Alliance: Dreamscapes

By Emma Castleberry

Untitled. Juan Santiago, artist

Through November 21, Pink Dog Gallery presents Dreamscapes, a collection of work by members of the Beyond Prison Artist Alliance. The Alliance started in 2017 with a mission to build an artistic community across carceral lines. Stacey Lane, community collaborations manager at Penland School of Craft, and Angela Lamm, case manager at Avery Mitchell Correctional Institution (AMCI), partnered to create a 10-week pilot drawing course that evolved into a continuing program of classes and workshops for the incarcerated at AMCI. “Many of the artists at AMCI are self-taught, or had taught each other for many years,” says Daniel Beck, who co-facilitates with SR Lejeune the Beyond Prison Artist Alliance. “Some had participated in arts programming in other prisons and some had formal art school training before their incarceration. But without a doubt, they are already experts in their experiences and their own creative practices.”

This will be the fifth time the artists have chosen a theme and exhibited their work, but the first time they have done so in the River Arts District. “The goal of this show had been to include the voices of the artists in every step of the process,” says Beck.

Unfortunately, that has been impossible because of the pandemic. “We have not been allowed to enter AMCI since March of last year and because of strict rules around our volunteer contract we cannot have direct correspondence with any of the artists inside the facility,” says Beck. “It has been a tough and frustrating year for the program but not nearly as tough or frustrating as it has been for the artists who have lost the opportunity to gather for our program and have the outlet of community we had built together.”

Despite this inconvenience, artists in the Alliance chose the titular theme and submitted the pieces they feel best represent their own voices as it pertains to the theme. The 10 contributing artists explore the idea of dreamscapes broadly, using technical approaches in graphite, colored pencil, painted acrylic and mixed media paper sculpture. “I am very excited for Asheville to have the opportunity to see the talent and perspective of these incredible artists,” says Beck.

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