After three years of formal application submissions to the Art in the Park Conservancy of San Francisco, Leslie Lakes, founder and C.E.O. of P.A.T.H. Prison Arts Touching Hearts, curates a major American prisoner art exhibition on the island of Alcatraz. In 2014, Lakes applied to showcase a prisoner art exhibition for calendar year 2015 in the facilities Band Practice Room, and was declined. She tried again in 2015 for a calendar year 2016 exhibition, and was declined due to major construction/renovation taking place. 2016 her application was granted for a 2017 exhibition, but only after much back and forth consideration. It has been a real labor of love for Lakes, who started P.A.T.H. as a means for us to hear the voice of the artists among the 2.3 million imprisoned. Many of these artists, if not most, want to find new meaning, and are committed to bringing about communal renewal through art. Here, P.A.T.H. allows these artists to tell us the story of Alcatraz, of its people and natural habitat. The Art Escape at Alcatraz exhibit tells the tale of how people have used the isle as a pre-Civil War military fort, a federal prison, a takeover and occupation by Native Americans, to its current incarnation as a National Park. Besides showcasing its land use, it also includes works highlighting the plant and animal life on the isle. For Lakes, preparing for the Art Escape at Alcatraz exhibition required lots of long hours with only five to six hours of sleep a night. She is especially grateful for the support she received from her husband Bill. A man, both generous in spirit and in heart to provide the love and support necessary for his wife to put on this major American prisoner art exhibition, which includes, long hours away, communication with countless of prisoners, (and predominantly male). Besides Bill, photographer Barry Toranto was without question an invaluable asset and help to this endeavor.
Art Escape at Alcatraz will be in the Band Practice Room on the isle, May 1, 2017, through June 30, 2017. This exhibition is done in cooperation with the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy, Arts in the Parks, and the National Parks Service. It includes works from prison inmates both past and present. Notably a 9’x2′ panoramic photo banner of the works of John Paul Chase , a criminal associate of John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson. He would go on to become #1 on the FBI’S Most Wanted list, and one of the longest-serving prisoners on Alcatraz (March 31, 1935-September 21, 1954). While the exhibition is primarily on the island, there are two privately curated collections of vintage ephemera and smaller pieces of prisoner art at two area libraries, the Belvedere Tiburon Public Library in Tiburon, and the Anne T. Kent California Room at the Marin County Free Library in the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright, Marin County Civic Center Complex.
The above featured image, A Bird Man’s Dream, by the world’s most prolific prisoner-artist, Donald “C-Note” Hooker, was specifically created for the exhibition, Art Escape at Alcatraz. Showcased next to this work, is a literary production by the artist Tho Her Name Is Not Gibraltar, Still She’s Called “The Rock.” These two works are part of the exhibition’s private curations and are the center piece in one of the four display cases in the Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin County Free Library.
Related works created by this artist for the Art Escape at Alcatraz Exhibition:
Thy Haloed Land, 1st Nation Speaks!
No Southern Shall Governor This Isle
Midnight at Alcatraz
Prison Arts Touching Hearts Blog
Anne T. Kent Kontribune
Belvedere Tiburon Public Library
1501 Tiburon Blvd.
Belvedere Tiburon, CA 94920
Anne T. Kent California Room
Marin County Free Library
3501 Civic Center Dr., #427
San Rafael, CA 94903
San Francisco, CA 94133
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Prison Arts Touching Hearts (P.A.T.H.)
P.O. Box 1702
Mill Valley, CA 94942
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