By Brook Reeder
As part of ESU’s Provost Colloquium Series, Phyllis Kornfeld discussed her “Cellblock Visions,” “Set Free in the Penitentiary,” exhibit on Nov. 3, 2016, in the Cecilia S. Cohen Recital Hall of the Fine and Performing Arts Center.
Kornfeld, who is a teacher of art to incarcerated men and women for 30 years, discussed the dynamic collection of artwork created behind bars.
“It’s been the gift of a lifetime,” Kornfeld expressed about her endeavor into art education. “I feel this is my component toward the battle against mass incarceration.”
Kornfeld presented creations prisoners had made on various surfaces such as handkerchiefs and envelopes as well as sculptures formed from innumerable products such as potato chip bags and toilet paper covered in hardened toothpaste.
The artwork, which features paintings, drawings and objects created by men and women inmates, “reveals the power of artistic expression to transcend the rigidity and severity of confinement,” as stated on the ESU Insider webpage.
“I endeavor to change their thinking,” Kornfeld stated about her goal of the program, “I discourage victimization.”
Objects such as these allow the inmates to send them to family members, creating a stronger connection to their families, which is beneficial to those incarcerated.
Kornfeld reported, “there is a lower rate of recidivism when the inmate can keep in contact with their family.”
She also stated that one inmate expressed, “I have learned to exercise my gift. I will now have a purpose,” about his experience in the art program.
Multiple inmates have supported themselves through prison by creating and selling Christmas and greeting cards together to perchance commissary and provide for their families while incarcerated.
“It’s a positive, productive way to spend their time with each other,” Kornfeld stated, “and it is most certainly not violent.”
“This exhibit provides a look into the combination of criminal justice, psychology and art” said Carrie Maloney, member of the Sociology, Social Work and Criminal Justice Department. “We are very fortunate to experience that within the department.”
The Cellblock Visions exhibit can be viewed by the public at no cost in ESU’s Madelon Powers Gallery in the Fine and Performing Arts Center until Nov. 22.
Hours for the gallery are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
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