A Glimpse Inside: Art Produced in Iowa Prisons

The artworks included in "A Glimpse Inside" were produced inside the Iowa Prison system, at various locations. Artists make use of mostly improvised materials to produce art that may be purely for self-expression, or possibly for personal income, such as greeting cards and commissioned portraits. All income earned in prison, whether privately or from official wages, is meager. Art is sometimes produced for cash and at other times for "prison money."

The collector, Doren L. Walker, was encouraged by retired attorney Vicki Rush to share his own art and art he has collected from incarcerated persons over the last fifteen years. His hope is that each artist will be seen as a person, making it easier for them to rejoin Iowa communities and find good jobs and suitable housing. Mr. Walker has been aided by support from Inside Out Reentry Community and Kathrina Litchfield, of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights. Jordan Sellergren, Art Director at Little Village, set up the exhibition at the magazine's headquarters in Iowa City. This has been a truly communal effort!

Inside Out Reentry Community website

Rooster, Colored pencil on paper, 8.5" x 11", undated

From Doren L. Walker, collector: "Pete Mendoza produces art not only for profit and his own pleasure, but as a way to keep himself and others mentally healthy. His art encourages people to run, exercise, stay active, and get involved. These are all proper forms of replacement behavior, and Pete does not let us forget the joy in trying these new things. He often makes us laugh with his images, such as one of a rooster stepping in manure. That piece was inspired as a joke by Pete, on me, when he learned that my first job out of prison would be as a chicken farmer. His use of colors is brilliant as expected of the highest quality graphic design. Pete substitutes his skill for the higher quality materials needed by some of the other artists in prison. Pete is a kind person from whom many inside draw spiritual nourishment."

This page was first displayed
on December 19, 2017

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