San Quentin Arts ~ California
(Katya McCulloch, instructor)

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Katya McCulloch: "The William James Association Prison Arts Project contracts with professional artists to provide in-depth, long-term arts experiences for incarcerated men and women. Begun in 1977, the program selects and hires professional visual, literary and performing artists to teach in California state prison facilities through Arts in Corrections, an innovative fine arts program developed in association with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California Arts Council. As of 2017, each of California’s 35 prisons once again has an established fine arts program serving incarcerated students. Among the several programs is a printmaking class started by Katya McCulloch in 2005. The program focuses on linocut prints and artists' books."


Blocks Off the Block: Bird Bath
By San Quentin Prison Arts Project Printmaking Class
Instructor Katya McCulloch
San Quentin, California: San Quentin Arts, 2017-2018. Edition of 40.

7 x 6.25"; 60 pages. Linoleum prints. Printed on Canson Dessin Classic Cream Paper with Charbonnel Aqua Wash Black Luxe C ink. Bound in archival bookboard with cover image printed on Rives Lightweight Paper. Covers in Canapetta bookcloth. End papers of Canson Mi-Tientes #429. Most Lino cuts signed and numbered. Books numbered. Design, cover, and title page by instructor Katya McCulloch.

Project Statement: "This hand-bound book of original linocut images was inspired during a long drought cycle in California. Everyone was affected by water rationing. San Quentin inmates were impacted by reduced shower days. The 'Bird Bath' concept covers a wide range of themes including: water conservation, oasis, nurture, humor, relaxation, compassion, new beginnings (parole), and spiritual cleansing."

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San Quentin Arts Out of Print and SOLD TitleS:  
Blocks Off the Block
By Arts in Corrections – Block Printing Class
San Quentin: San Quentin Arts , 2009. [Edition of 35].

6.25 x 7"; 24 leaves. Linoleum block prints on Canson Dessin and Arches Velin paper with Daniel Smith Traditional Relief Black #79 ink. Bound in black cloth over boards with linoleum print on front cover. Numbered on the colophon.

23 linocut prints (18 or which are signed) by 8 members of Katya McCullough's 2009 Block Printing Class at San Quentin State Prison. All profits go back to support and sustain the program.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: "The San Quentin Prison Arts Project is the major program of the William James Association, which started in 1977. It was the original model for Arts-in-Corrections, a statewide prison arts program which ran from 1980-2010 and which helped lower recidivism and improve the quality of life for inmates, their families, and the larger community. Prison Arts Project is based on the belief that when institutionalized individuals participate in the arts their self-esteem and outlook on the world is significantly affected. Art workshops teach self-discipline, problem-solving, and concentration. The skills acquired through participation in the arts are translated to many other parts of one’s life. San Quentin Prison Arts Project currently offers painting, drawing, printmaking, creative writing, theater, and music programs through the deep commitment of its dedicated teachers and institutional support. "

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The Tower
Book design by Beth Thielen
Prints, writing, and binding by various prisoners at San Quentin State Prison and the California Rehabilitation Centers between the years 2006 and 2007
[Norco, California]: [Beth Thielen], 2006 / 2007. Edition of 30 .

14" x 9" closed structure with four books forming the four middle sides of the tower. Two booklets – "Notes on the Tower Book" by Beth Thielen and Colophon – inside the middle section of the tower. Prints on Arches Text Wove 120 gr in Daniel Smith Domestic Velvet Black AC63. Text in Times New Roman printed on an Epson Stylus CX4600 on Neenah Classic Crest, Solar White 24 lbs acid free papers. Bound in Gray Canapetta Italian Book Cloth over acid free, Lignin free Binder’s Board. Jade 403 PVA, methyl cellulose paste, Black Arches cover, Canson Mi-Teintes Steel gray, Pearl, Barbour’s Irish Linen Thread. Linoleum prints. Numbered on the colophon.

Beth Thielen, Notes on the Tower Book: ”This is the only book edition of its kind. It is a collaboration between the art program at San Quentin and the now disbanded Women’s program at the California Rehabilitation Center, in Norco, California. I’ve been teaching in the California prison system since 1985. When I first started teaching, it was through the California Arts Council Artist in Residency Grants. Selected by a panel of my peers, I received $1600 per month to provide 20 hours per week of instruction at the participating institution. Many young artists in the state of California started their careers with this program. That program no longer exists, and the tolerance for this kind of program is increasingly threatened. . . .

"Trust is the key to working in this world. When Officer Strobelt asks me as I leave the prison: 'Do you have your murder weapon?' I must indeed have my retractable knife with all the snap off blades accounted for. Like the Hippocratic oath, I must first 'do no harm.' The officers and staff of the prison need to know I can be trusted. The inmates also need to trust me to watch my tools. They don’t want to see their cell torn up and their bodies searched because a tool is missing. We make the structure of trust transparent to everyone. When everything is well lit, it’s harder for trouble to develop.

"My primary interest has been to provide art classes to women in prison. By using the 'craft' of book arts, I’ve been able to draw into the program many women who might not otherwise investigate art. Through private funding, I purchase the best materials I can find: Canapetta linen book cloth from Italy, Irish linen threads, archival glues, French printmaking paper. The value of the materials reflects the value I place in my students. I bring the best to encourage the best and they never fail me. It’s amazing how simple and true this formula is. Works from my classes are in collections at the Getty Museum of Art and The Library of Congress, to name a few. The purpose of the work is to give my inmate students the proper 'dress' to attend the ball, to become part of the conversation about incarceration when a more enlightened perception is possible.

"We are living in a time of twisted priorities, of which our overflowing prisons are symptomatic. Teddy Roosevelt was the first to coin the concept of the 'living wage.' That it should be 'standard high enough to make morality possible.' When I look at the images created by my students or read their stories, I see Dorothea Lange’s Dust Bowl refugees. I give this as an example to illustrate that I am responsible as an artist to see the context I exist in. Art is about seeing. As you look at this work, I challenge you to see large. “


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Page last update: 10.24.18


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