CSUSB Art Department engages in the Community-Based Art Program

By Sierra Marrero| Assistant Community Editor

The CSUSB Department of Art was awarded $15,000 by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), to use towards a program of their choice until December of 2018.

The grant was given earlier in 2016, and will be used for allowing selected individuals to have the opportunity to teach inmates about painting, drawing, writting and printmaking through the Community- Based Art Program (CBA).

.According to Annie Buckley, an associate professor of visual arts who is the founder of the CBA, says that the NEA awards are are not easy to achieve.

“It is incredibly competitive on a national level,” said Buckley. “In nearly a decade here, I only remember one or two awards made to the institution institution from the NEA, including this one.”

The program has a mission of formulating a prison arts collective that is geared towards promoting creative arts and writing in prisons.

The founders of the program believe by including this into the prison system, it allows for a foundation of self-expression, reflection, communication and empathy, and enabling inmates to expand on their knowledge on the world around them .

The program, however, has been around since March 2013, when CSUSB first worked closely with the California Institution for Men, and held four weekly art classes for various art forms including: painting, drawing, printmaking, and design, for over 45 men.

The grant will continue to be used for the Chino men’s and women’s prisons to support multidisciplinary arts and and implement the use of experienced teaching artists to lead the workshops.

Buckley said, ” This program will allow us to collaborate with a guest artist and to engage our diverse teach team- including CSUSB students and alumni-in collaborative art making about a social issue with participants at the prison.”

According to the NEA website, “Each workshop will revolve around a particular theme chosen by the participants and artist facilitators. Then, the groups will select and research at least three disciplines to integrate into their projects. The work will be presented to invited guests through an interactive culminating event, and an online component will make the work available to the general public.”

Some students, like criminal justice major, Israel Ramirez, believes that the implementation of this program is great and that the money should be put towards the inmates for rehabilitation purposes.

“A majority of people in prison who are in for low level offenses or drugs, should be able to adapt to society upon release, and by including art for them to learn is a great way into preparing them for release. Ramirez continues, ” far too often inmates aren’t ready to go back into society, and at least through art programs they will be able to critically think and have the ability to observe different art forms as well as use skills they learn in prison to interact and engage positively with others.”

Ramirez believes that the outcome of the program could possibly reduce offender recidivism.

His assertion holds truth in the notion that the Chino inmates from 2013, successfully engaged in teamwork from a 45-foot mural they created under the guidance of four teaching artists.

According to programs website, the CBA ultimately “envisions being part of the societal shift away from thinking about incarceration in a strictly punitive way and towards the integration of more opportunities for rehabilitation.”

They were able to collaborate with each other to works towards one goal of producing quality art that positively showcased their experiences of the program and gained art skills.