Paths of Discovery

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About the author:
Peter Merts has photographed inmate-artists and their art at San Quentin for many years. He is a fine art and documentary photographer who has exhibited, published, and lectured in the U.S. and overseas. His website is

Larry Brewster is a professor and former dean who first evaluated Arts-in-Corrections in 1983. His interviews with inmate-artists and ex-cons who had participated in the program are reported here. He is the author of several books and journal articles and teaches program evaluation and public policy.

Paths of Discovery

Art Practice and Its Impact in California Prisons

Authored by Larry Brewster
Photographs by Peter Merts

Paths of Discovery: Art Practice and Its Impact in California Prisons tells the story in words and pictures of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women who found their own voices through self-examination and the discipline of an artistic process. The California Arts-in-Corrections program brought together inmate artists and artist-teachers to explore the world of fine art in its many forms; along the way, countless inmates discovered untapped skills, sensitivities, and the rewards of self-discipline.

Artistic ability is respected inside prison walls. Arts-in-Corrections empowered men and women to take control of their lives through creative expression in the visual arts, poetry, music and other fine arts. The mission of Arts-in-Corrections was to provide inmates with the highest quality instruction, delivered by successful, working artists - many of whom became role models and mentors to the inmates. The program was established in 1980 and sadly ended in 2010 - a victim of the state's budget crisis. The program was proven to have significantly reduced institutional tension, violence and recidivism. By travelling with their teachers down paths of discovery, inmate artists were enabled to retain their humanity while doing time. Many of them learned to serve something more valuable than their sentences.

The photographs in this book show many of the inmate artists at work, and their finished products. Through interviews and poetry you will hear in their own voices how prison arts programming helped them transcend their prisoner ID numbers and identify as artists. This book documents the existence - inside the razor wire and bleak walls of prison - of some talented and sensitive artists who have found new paths of discovery through the artistic process.

Publication Date:
1479110213 / 9781479110216
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5" x 11"
Full Color with Bleed
Related Categories:
Art / Folk & Outsider Art

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