Project PAINT: the Prison Arts INiTiative

Project PAINT launched as an entirely volunteer-run program in 2013.

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In 2011, Founding Director Laura Pecenco, had been conducting research on arts programming in prisons for her PhD in Sociology at the University of California, San Diego and wanted to understand these programs from the inside out. However, California had completely defunded the statewide Arts-in-Corrections (AIC) program in 2010, and no formal visual arts program existed at San Diego’s state prison, Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJDCF). Laura reached out to the UC San Diego community, and artist Kathleen Mitchell immediately volunteered to help out. Additional volunteers soon came on board.

Project PAINT operated as a volunteer-run program until the Spring of 2014, when the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced that it would be refunding AIC as a “pilot program” in some of the state’s prisons. Project PAINT joined forces with the William James Association, the progenitors of AIC back in the 70's, and received a contract to teach classes at RJDCF for 2014-2015. Project PAINT has been successfully funded every year since, and as of 2018, AIC has returned to every state prison in California. Today, Project PAINT employs 10 professional artists and operates on two yards at RJDCF, providing multiple weekly classes in a variety of artistic mediums.