Read the story of California's Arts-in-Corrections pilot, and the partnerships that make this important work possible.

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California ArtBeat

California Arts Council
Advancing California through the Arts and Creativity
August 14, 2014

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Arts + Prison: Transforming Lives Behind Bars

In a National Endowment for the Arts blog post, our director Craig Watson tells the story of California's Arts-in-Corrections comeback, and the partnerships that make this important work possible.

The California Arts Council received quite the Valentine's Day surprise from one of its fellow state agencies last February. The head of rehabilitation programs for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) called with a proposal: help coordinate an 18-month, $2.5 million Arts-in-Corrections pilot program in California state prisons. CDCR would provide the funding, and the Arts Council would provide the know-how and coordination. Like most Valentine's Day proposals, CDCR's was happily accepted.  

By June the first phase of the program was launched. The Arts Council contracted seven arts organizations with dozens of artists scheduled to provide more than 10,000 hours of arts programming in 14 state prisons in the first year, and even more planned for the following year.  

The current Arts-in-Corrections pilot isn't exactly new, but rather is a revival of a previously successful program. Arts programs in California prisons started in the late 1970s, and became world-renowned through the 1980s and early 1990s. But due to various budgetary and policy decisions, the program dwindled to next to nothing during the first decade of the 21st century and was officially closed by CDCR in 2010. 

Continue reading on the NEA's Art Works Blog. >> --

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