Life on Hold Exhibition at Gormley Gallery Features Artwork by Incarcerated Women

Artwork Created During Workshops Facilitated by NDMU Students, Faculty, and Staff
Casey McKeel

RSVP: Reception and Gallery Talk – Saturday, January 28

BALTIMORE – “Life on Hold,” an exhibition featuring the artwork of women incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, will be on display at Notre Dame of Maryland University’s Gormley Gallery from January 23 through March 3.

The exhibition, which was led and curated by Casey McKeel, includes 25 collage pieces, nine paintings, and nine audio recordings created through a collaboration with NDMU students, faculty, and staff, and with the support of community members. A series of art workshops were held at the institution during the fall of 2022. 

“By committing to something new, challenging, and unfamiliar I gained greater knowledge about the importance of creating a safe space for a diverse population,” said Jaylien Washington '25, an art therapy major at NDMU who participated in the collaboration. “I was also inspired by the women for finding the strength within themselves to take a potentially dire situation and create something beautiful that was full of life and vitality. As an aspiring art therapist, I am grateful to have participated in such a rewarding opportunity.”

The workshops were facilitated using art therapy techniques, which emphasize process and individual expression. As defined by the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is founded on the belief that “visual and symbolic expression gives voice to experience and empowers individual, communal and societal transformation.” All women at the prison who expressed interest in attending a workshop were allowed to participate, and all artwork created has been included in order to share all voices from a population which is often forgotten.

This exhibition brings to light the lived experience of incarcerated women, who represent the fastest growing segment of the prison population nationwide. The exhibition also draws attention to the fact that the carceral system disproportionately impacts women of color.

“One thing that really stuck with me about the women who chose to participate in the workshop was their eagerness and gratitude toward creating something,” said Zoe Kumpf '25, another art therapy major involved in the collaboration. “The women are in a place where almost every aspect of their lives is restricted and controlled by something or someone outside of themselves, so the opportunity to create and be in control of their expression was relished.

“As an art therapy student, I am incredibly grateful to have had this experience,” she continued. “And I am left with an even stronger urge to provide people with the opportunity for expression and creation. Seeing the transformative nature of creating renewed my personal ambition to share the power of the arts with my community.”

All supplies needed for creating and framing the artwork were donated. The supplies were then brought into the prison, adhering to the strict guidelines around materials that are permitted inside. The resulting artwork speaks to the very resourcefulness and strength of those who made it.

There will be an opening reception and gallery talk with curator Casey McKeel on Saturday, January 28 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Gormley Gallery. Additional public programming will include a panel discussion on Monday, February 20, and a screening of the film “Art & Krimes by Krimes” followed by Q&A with artist Mary Baxter on February 28.

Established in 1895, Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) is a private, Catholic institution in Baltimore, Maryland, with the mission to educate leaders to transform the world. Notre Dame has been named one of the best "Regional Universities North" by U.S. News & World Report.

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