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By Laura Pecenco
Project PAINT, Founding Director

Project PAINT: The Prison Arts Initiative is an arts organization at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJDCF) in San Diego. The group partners with the William James Association to provide visual arts classes through the Arts-in-Corrections (AIC) program.

Rjdcf Paint 3Recently, Project PAINT held RJDCF’s first-ever inside art exhibition, “Fresh Start.” The event was held in the Facility E Gym, featuring almost 100 pieces of art on the “fresh start” theme made by over 50 incarcerated artists.

All of the artists donated the work as a fundraiser for Project PAINT. Thirty outside visitors entered the prison to view the art and interact with the artists. The event involved a welcome greeting, spoken word poetry, readings by Playwrights Project participants, artwork viewing and mingling with the artists, and a panel consisting of Warden Daniel Paramo, Community Resources Manager Lance Eshelman, Project PAINT artist Michael Briggs, Community Social Gathering member and artist Jack Sheffield, Project PAINT Founding Director Laura Pecenco, and Project PAINT Teaching Artist Linda Litteral, moderated by E-yard resident Marvin.

All of the artwork is available for viewing and purchasing on projectpaint.org, with all proceeds going back into the program to provide additional supplies and classes.

Project PAINT also recently completed its fourth cycle as an AIC program, having provided six classes in two of RJD’s facilities, D and E. We held graduation ceremonies for each course; all classes meet weekly for three hours: Illustration, Figure Drawing & Painting, Color Theory, Expressive Painting/Healing Arts, and Project-Based Art. The featured photos are from Project-Based Art, which is one of our longest-running classes, ultimately a course longer than a full academic year.

To date, Project PAINT has worked with over 400 people who are incarcerated and regularly works to publicize their art. Currently, Project PAINT artwork is on display at the Hill Street Country Club, a gallery in Oceanside. This exhibition had an opening reception on Sunday, July 29, and a panel discussion on Saturday, Aug. 4. The panelists included multiple former Project PAINT participants who are now returned citizens.

In just a few months, Project PAINT will celebrate its five-year anniversary. For more information on the program, visit projectpaint.org.

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