Prisoners organise exhibition inside Auckland Prison

22 May 2012

An exhibition, held in Auckland Prison in April, taught the prisoner artists about the basics of curation, including the display, signage and cataloguing, says their tutor Ellie Drummond.

Ellie, an artist and curator, has been an art tutor at Auckland Prison for the past 18 months. She is also the General Manager of Mairangi Arts Centre, which has held three annual exhibitions of prison art in partnership with the Department of Corrections.

Prison art tutor Ellie DrummondFollowing on from the success of the InsideOut exhibitions at Mairangi Arts Centre, the men asked Ellie if they could have an exhibition within the prison.

“I got them to submit a proposal, detailing the scope of the exhibition, the use of the exhibition space and how they would implement the project,” Ellie says.

As part of the exhibition, there was also a competition, divided into five categories: weaving, carving, creative writing, painting and drawing. Altogether, 21 men submitted a total of 121 entries.

Apart from the category winners, there was also a People’s Choice Award where all the men in the unit were able to vote on their favourite artwork. The winner of this award was a painting called Lady of the Marae.

With the proposal accepted, the men then had to take up the challenge of organising the event. Ellie says that the entire unit got involved in the project: for example, the men working in horticulture brought in some plants to display in the exhibition space while the men working in catering decorated the space and provided the food. Others cleaned the floor and set up the chairs.

“They got a big surprise at how much work was involved but they were very happy with the outcome,” Ellie says.

“The artists were very proud of their work and what they had achieved, both in terms of the artwork and the logistics of putting on the show.

“I also got very positive feedback from the staff, who commented on the men’s talent and their ability to organise the exhibition. They also thought it was great to see the whole unit involved in a project.”

Most of the artwork will be displayed permanently on the walls of the unit.


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