Curated by Brian Maguire
6 September - 5 October
Opening panel talk - 6 September at 6.30pm
Open Minds is an exhibition of work by people in custody in Ireland, curated by artist Brian Maguire. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to approach the work with an open mind and to see beyond the person who has been convicted. Bringing the works into the public arena is a reminder to us that people in prison have not simply disappeared but are still part of the community to which they will return.
Maguire visited prison schools to select work in the context and environment in which it was produced. He was decisive in selecting pieces that expressed a bold personal, social or political statement. Maguire’s visits were productive, generating debate within the prison art community, the students of the prison schools enjoyed the opportunity to discuss their work with a renowned Irish artist and Maguire often gave advice on how to progress to the next stage of third level education something which many former prisoners have done upon release.
Engaging in the creative arts gives people in custody a direct and intimate opportunity for expression and self-encounter. By learning the skills associated with the arts, individuals in custody uncover aspects of their own potential as creative people and for some this may provide a career opportunity into the future. Former prisoner Eddie Cahill explains how he “painted his way out of prison” abandoning a life of crime for a career as an artist. Now a critically acclaimed artist, Cahill’s story makes a strong case for the life changing potential of art education in prisons.
Reflecting on his experience of each of the prison education centres, Maguire observed that:
“the conditions of the studio - isolation - are the conditions of the cell. Communication through art - a solitary action - is also possible in jail. Art which reinforces the inner world has a particular place in this world of stone and timelessness. It was a pleasure and privilege to visit these institutions, over a two week period and meet so many people whose work is now shown in this exhibition.”
Open Minds exhibition is a collaboration between Rua Red and the Irish Prison Education Service. The Prison Education Service is provided in partnership with the Education and Training Boards, with a joint vision of “A prison education service based on self-respect and respect for others, within a safe, supportive learning environment”. The prison arts programme has immense benefits, allowing students to reflect, explore and be creative.