Prison Art: Is It Therapy or "Therapeutic"? So What?

There is no doubt that making art in prison can be therapeutic--but is it necessarily therapy? This blog teases apart the differences between the two, all the while exploring the age-old question: so what?

Anathema Art: Using Inmates' Art to Help Them Transcend

This post emerged from a conversation and interview with Angela Luttrell, founder of Anathema Art, an amazing program that uses art to help prison inmates transcend their limitations and circumstances.

Barred Art: Reflections on a Prison Art Show

Guest blogger and colleague Shannon Schmitz, an art therapist who has spent many years working as an art therapist in various prison settings, offers heartfelt musings following her recent experience of judging an art show in a makeshift prison art gallery.

The Candy Man: A Prisoner Paints with Delectable Materials

Sometimes the art completed by a prison inmate transcends the limitations inherent in the rigidly controlled and tedious prison environment, with the artist often relying on very unusual materials—candy M & Ms to be precise—from which to create. This post presents the highly unorthodox yet beautiful art created by Blasi, a man locked up for murder over 30 years ago.

Using Art to 'Touch' Someone in a Juvenile Detention Center

Guest blogger and artist Elise Lunsford describes a unique and creative approach to promote reconnection and healing with a difficult client in a juvenile detention facility. In forensic settings, clinicians are warned not to touch the inmates. She demonstrates that art can allow us to reach out and touch those who therapists would otherwise hesitate to touch.

Escaping Across the Border Through Art

Often, women who are emigrating from Mexico—sometimes illegally—may be doing so to escape from violence and suffering. Sometimes, they escape towards it. This post examines how one art therapist, guest blogger Valentina Castro, uses art to help endure and heal from such pain.

Brush with the Law: An Arts in Prison Program

Guest blogger and artist Maria Maneos describes the tragic impetus and the development of her innovative nonprofit Prison Art organization "Brush with the Law," and how it has brought about effective and healthy change in those inmates that participate.

The Power of Art in Crossing Inmates’ Prison Boundaries

The latest post, by guest blogger Lariza Fenner, illustrates just how art and art therapy can be used to bring prison inmates together who might otherwise be in violently opposing groups.

Art in Prison-A Parisian Event

What happens when a German prison chaplain, a British CEO of a non-profit organization, a French Sociologist and an American art therapist are brought together in Paris, France by a former banker and his wife, co-directors/producers of documentary films? You get a lively and informative discussion on the value of Art in Prison. Obviously.

It Came Home: My Personal Response to the FSU Shooting

My personal reflections as a Florida State University professor on the campus shootings

Art Therapy in a “Murdered Out” Community

Guest blogger Rachel Nelms explores what it is like to provide art therapy to victims of violence in a “murdered out” community in Chicago. As a "socially responsible practitioner," Nelms empowers and provides a voice through art for those who experience grief and loss through the most violent of circumstances.

Most Violent Inmate, Very Prolific Artist--Charles Bronson

Considered one of the most violent and dangerous inmates of Great Britain, Charles Bronson is also quite the prolific artist.

Silver Linings Sketchbook

Guest blogger, Nicole Barash, builds upon the previous post, expanding our views and understanding of offering art therapy to forensic mental health patients. Against expectations, Ms. Barash demonstrates just how effective art making can be for this lost population.

One Drew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Without working in prisons and jails, many clinicians may still find themselves facing forensic issues providing services in the Forensic Mental Health Hospital. Some argue that these settings are even more dangerous and ambiguous than a prison. Guest blogger Sheila Lorenzo de la Peña presents some of her struggles as an art therapy in such a difficult setting.

Investigation and Intervention: Forensic Art Therapy

The difference between forensic art therapy and art therapy in forensic settings is equivalent to the difference between investigation and intervention. Marcia Sue Cohen Liebman, the leading forensic art therapist in the field, defines and explores this concept for this post.

Inmates Learn to Understand and Manage Anger Through Art

This post introduces us to an art therapist who used art to supplement an anger management program in a men’s prison.

The Art of Murder(ers) Revisited: The Drawings of Jodi Arias

Convicted murderer, Jodi Arias, has been selling her drawings, first through eBay and then her own dedicated website. This post revisits an examination of the art of murderers, reflecting specifically on the revealing work Arias created.

Therapy in Prison: Where Legal, Ethics, and Morals Collide

In prison, therapists may find themselves in the crossroads where legal issues, ethical considerations and moral ramifications intersect and sometimes collide with another. This post explores a situation where I, as an art therapist working in a prison, experienced such conflict, and the poor moral judgment and decision that resulted.

The Spinning Moral Compass of Forensic Art Therapy

Being ethical in our profession is one thing–but what happens if we are called to do something that may put us in a position to examine and question our own moral convictions? This post picks up where the last one left off, and provides a very personal examination of what testifying for the defense of a man who murdered his children did to my own moral compass.

Ethics in Forensic Art Therapy: Defined and Conquered

As art therapists’ roles continue to evolve and expand, the ethical standards developed do not always fit new responsibilities. This post examines the ethical considerations and paradoxes experienced by an art therapist testifying as an expert witness for a murder trial

Prison Art: Strings Are Attached

Within the rigid, controlled and tedious prison environment, it is hard to believe that beautiful, creative pieces emerge for no other reason than the strong, overpowering desire to create. This post explores one extraordinary piece that emerged from such a need, and in turn, escaped its potential destruction in the name of “contraband.”

Drawing Alone: Making Art in Solitary Confinement

This post, written by guest blogger Jaimie Burkewitz, a graduating masters student in art therapy, explores whether allowing inmates in solitary confinement the ability to express themselves through art can help them survive the loss of stimulation and human contact, and ultimately find deeper meaning.

Man's Art Convicts Him of Murder. Wait… What?!?

In 1997, Tim Masters was wrongfully convicted of murder simply because he drew some disturbing images as a teenager.This post describes how the forensic psychologist contracted by the prosecution testified against the innocent man because of his art, and some musings on how an art therapist could have been used by the defense to counter such damning testimony.

Deftly Drawing Dexter

A tense moment on the popular Showtime series "Dexter" occurs in its final season. The main character is given three drawings he drew as a child. They are only shown for several seconds, but they are meant to reveal oh so much. Do they succeed? Do they expose the burgeoning serial killer through their colored lines and shapes? Or is this merely pop-art therapy?

Addressing Sexual Deviance: Does Making Art Help or Hinder?

As a result of a recent lecture and previous blog post, a counseling professor in Kansas asked a provocative and complicated question about a sex offender drawing a pornographic image. Ultimately, do--or can-- the same beneficial dynamics a violent offender experiences through art making apply to a pedophile? The answer may be just as provocative as the question.

Inmate Mural Part 3: Beacon of Hope in a Women’s Prison

The final Inmate Mural Arts Program project, a large, outdoor mural completed by female inmates, clearly reflected the differences in dynamics between the male and female inmates.

Inmate Mural Part 2: Escape from Alcatraz/Escape Through Art

What do you get when you remove jail inmates from their correctional institution and place them directly on the wall in the middle of a small rural town to complete a mural? You get a large, complex, symbol-filled painting about one of the most notorious prison breaks in history.

Inmate Mural Arts Program Part 1: Transformation Thru Unity

Learning from the Philadelphia Mural Arts program (see previous post) the Florida Department of Corrections, prison administrators and art therapists developed a pioneering Inmate Mural Arts Program in which prison inmates would learn valuable life skills and create new opportunities by designing and completing a large mural together.

Prison Murals: Inmates and Crime Victims Create Together

Initially seeking to create a film to capture how art can fill the gaps that emerged from lack of resources in prisons, Cindy Burstein and Tony Heriza's film captured a new dynamic—the collaboration between prisoner and crime victim. The film became: Concrete, Steel & Paint.

Mass Murderers—One Artist/Therapist’s Response

The last post reflected on how and why some people may be intrigued and perhaps even fascinated by the art of serial killers. This post introduces us to the art of a well-known art therapist, her creative response to such monstrous and dreadful crimes.

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