New grant allows Prison Arts & Education project to continue

A recent $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will help the Alabama Prison Arts & Eduction project at Auburn University continue.
The project, housed in the department of human development and family studies in the College of Human Sciences, has provided visual arts classes to many correctional facilities in Alabama since 2003, when it first partnered with the NEA.
According to the project's website, they believe it is important for the adult prison population to gain a quality education, and to build a relationship with learning that will continue to grow for the rest of their lives.
The project has grown from one poet teaching in one prison to more than 100 writers, artists, scholars teach in correctional facilities in Alabama.
Kyes Stevens, the project's director, spoke on the importance of keeping the grant going.
"The main motivation of the project is that education is good for people," Stevens said. "This is another population that we can reach."
Auburn's project has partnered with the Alabama Department of Corrections to offer semester-long classes in arts, sciences and English in 10 facilities.
"Our students are people who have never had the opportunity that many of us have had," Stevens said. "We want to help them develop for their future."
Auburn has received seven grants from the NEA Art Works program Since the project began in 2003.
The NEA Art Works program's main goal is to support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence.
This grant will fund the program through 2015.
Former prison arts students who are released from the correctional facilities still stay in touch, often attributing it as a positive effect.
"We leave it up to our students to contact us when they are released," Stevens said. "We have had former students who view the program as the primary reason they could get through their incarceration."
One warden, according to the program, said he could always tell who participated in the program, saying they had an air of purpose and are driven to succeed in learning.
The prison arts and education classes are taught as college-level courses, helping to prove the students that they can earn a degree when released from the facilities.
The prison arts and education students can request transcripts as the classes are offered as Continuing Education through Auburn.
Dae Jackson, junior in journalism, said she thinks the program is a great benefit for those who may not have had educational opportunities growing up.
"Education is important and the fact they are providing that opportunity to gain education while incarcerated can help," Jackson said. "It can help put them on a better path."
John Carvalho, journalism professor, taught a class at one of the facilities.
"The inmates responded to the readings we provided beforehand," Carvalho said. "They came to class with in-depth questions."
Stevens also spoke about the enthusiasm that students bring to the program.
"A lot of people want to make judgments on the prison population," Stevens said. "They react with an enthusiasm for an education that I have never seen anywhere else."

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