Campus art gallery partners with Project Rebound to share prisoners’ work

An intimate group, comprised of formerly incarcerated individuals, art gallery employees and a couple of SF State students, gathered on campus to discuss racial disparities and unjust treatment in the California prison system.

The group gathered in the Cesar Chavez Student Center Art Gallery Thursday evening to discuss an exhibit titled “The Rose that Grew from the Concrete” and to screen “Maximum Security University,” a short video that shows prison guards murdering four inmates by gunshot. The exhibit, lasting from Oct. 2 to Oct. 16, displayed artwork from former and currently incarcerated individuals.

“Everyone, with their stories, felt comfortable and felt it was a safe space to share what they went through and what they think about the system,” said Mercedes Flores, a senior biology major, regarding the discussion.

Project Rebound, hosted by SF State Associated Students Inc., reaches out to and serves Californian prisons to help previously incarcerated people complete their education. The project brought the exhibit to the campus through a partnership with the art gallery. This artwork in particular came from San Quentin, Kern Valley, Solano and Folsom State Prisons.

During the discussion, the group spoke about the meaning behind the title of the exhibit, which shares the name of a poem from the late Tupac Shakur, as well as the treatment prisoners receive during and after their sentences.

Painting by Damon Lee Johnson "Shuja" an artist featured at the exhibition at SF State in the art gallery showing of The Rose That Grew From Concrete art exhibit at The Art Gallery in the Cesar Chavez Student Center had art on display of art works from individuals who are formally presently incarcerated. Amanda Peterson / Xpress.

Painting by Damon Lee Johnson “Shuja” an artist featured at the exhibition at SF State in the art gallery showing of The Rose That Grew From Concrete art exhibit at The Art Gallery in the Cesar Chavez Student Center had art on display of art works from individuals who are formally presently incarcerated. Amanda Peterson / Xpress.

“Tupac, the artist that passed away or was killed awhile back, he had a poem that was entitled that and he was talking about children raised in poverty,” said Jason Bell, director of Project Rebound. “We took that same concept and applied it to the prison system, a place that is traditionally recognized as something so negative, to the beauty that comes out and comes in the form of art.”

Janna Alfred, assistant manager of the art gallery and studio arts major, expressed her own sentiment about the exhibit’s title.

“It is supposed to have a positive and uplifting message about pursuing a higher education even after you’ve faced so much difficulty as a result a numerous different societal things,” Alfred said.

Shamika Wilson, a health education major and intern for the counseling and psychological services, was one of the main organizers of the exhibit. Wilson said the exhibit’s message really hit home for her because her husband is currently incarcerated.

“Project Rebound wanted to do an art show and this is what came of it,” Wilson said. “At first they just wanted to do prison art but then we decided to go with a theme. The Rose that Grew from the Concrete is the theme we went with.”

Seventy-five percent of the art in the gallery came from Wilson’s husband. Former and current inmates donated the other 25 percentof artwork to Project Rebound.

“It is some pretty powerful artwork in there,” Bell said. “A lot of meaning behind it and a lot of passion behind it.”

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