San Quentin Prison Arts Project

Past Exhibit

February–August 2014 | Alcatraz Band Practice Room | visual art

The San Quentin Prison Arts Project, returning for the third time to Alcatraz, will be featuring works by prisoners from the San Quentin State Prison. The program hopes to break down the negative connotations with prisoners, particularly those returning to communities in California. The works bring the historical aspect of the island and relate it to the current incarcerated individuals, revealing their characters through a series of paintings and prints. This arts project at San Quentin, and other prisons, has been funded by the William James Association since 1977. The result has allowed visitors to creatively connect with the prisoners, and to allow the prisoners to express themselves in a unique way. San Quentin Prison Arts Project currently offers painting, drawing, printmaking, creative writing, theater, and music programs through the deep commitment of its dedicated teachers and institutional support.

“Exhibits like this are one way for the inmates to give back to society. Exhibits, books, and other projects create a bridge that helps to break down stereotypes about inmates by sharing human feelings and experiences. Inmates who pursue the arts can develop their human potential to grow beyond the mistakes of their past.” - Carol Newborg, Program Manager, San Quentin Prison Arts Project

To learn more about the Prison Arts Program, please visit the William James Association website:

To see more photographs from San Quentin and other prisons, please visit Fine Art Photographer Peter Merts’s website:

The San Quentin Prison Arts Project is presented through the partnership of the National Parks Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

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