DENVER — The Community Commons Gallery at the University of Denver is currently housing a new art show that displays art created by incarcerated artists.
“We are working in collaboration with the Chained Voices organization. We sent out a call for art across the Department of Corrections and to every prison in the state. Then, after that, folks picked up submission packets,” said Ashley Hamilton, executive director of the DU Prison Arts Initiative.
Four hundred pieces were chosen for the show and about 40 pieces are on display at DU.
“Most of the artists that you’re seeing here are self-taught. So, my job and the organization's job is really to create the space for their work to be in the world,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said many of the artists who are currently behind bars told her that through their work, they feel a sense of connection to the community.
But Hamilton admitted that sense of connection may be rejected by some in the outside world.
“I understand that perspective, especially from the vantage point of folks who have experienced harm and I never want to devalue that or disrespect that. But what I’ve seen day in and day out in my career is that when there are spaces behind the wall that are devoid of opportunities like this, it actually leads to more harm long-term,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the goal of the art show is to provide rehabilitation and to remind the community of the artist's humanity.
“I hope that the takeaway is that folks inside are a part of our community, and I know that that’s complicated and that’s complex for some,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said she hopes this art and the talent behind it piques society’s curiosity about who is behind bars.
The art is for sale and the money goes directly to the artist.
The entire collection can be viewed online and in-person at the Community Commons Gallery at DU and at the Cottonwood Center for Arts in Colorado Springs.