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A paint and paper work showing six prison cells, one on top fo the next, with a rope glowing from a cell on the third floor down to the floor.

‘The View From Here’ art exhibit offers prisoners’ perspective of the world

on July 6, 2024

Eduardo Ramirez, a Philadelphia-based mural artist, was incarcerated for 27 years in a Pennsylvania prison for a crime he did not commit. Since he was exonerated in November, Ramirez has found solace in making and teaching art in his community. 

“When a person creates, there’s a sense of pride in the act of creating, regardless of what the final product looks like,” he said.

His art is on display through Aug. 17 at the Richmond Art Center in an exhibition called “The View From Here.” The exhibition features 24 incarcerated artists from the San Quentin Rehabilitation Center and Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution Phoenix. It came together through letters exchanged between men at the two prisons about creating art and communicating their thoughts into something tangible. It is being presented by the San Quentin Prison Arts Project in collaboration with Mural Arts Philadelphia and also was on display in Philadelphia in March. 

“They were creators,” Ramirez said of the people he worked with during his time in prison. “They were much larger than the worst mistake they ever made in their lives.” 

The golden gate bridge under an orange sky and over an orange sea, as seekn from the San Quentin.

What: “The View From Here” art exhibition

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday until Aug. 17

Where: Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave.

Cost: Free


Some of their letters are also on display at the exhibition, representing those who are unable to visit their own showcase. One letter reads, “I am in a beautiful art program here at San Quentin, I am in all the art classes hahaha. Remember that you have entered the realm of ‘timelessness’ with the art you’ve done.” 

Carol Newborg, program manager at the San Quentin Arts Project, emphasized the artists’ absence in the exhibition space, saying the system imposes “cruelly long sentences” despite its contention of rehabilitation. 

The collaborators wanted to make the artists’ presence felt, which includes their letters as well as songs that hold personal meaning for them. 

“As you walk around and look at the art, you can hear the music that was selected by the artists,” said Amy Spencer, community engagement director at the Richmond Art Center. “You are seeing their work but you’re also hearing something that they helped shape as well.”  

Ramirez is one of the few artists who is out of prison and the only one who will be able to attend the exhibition. He chose the track ‘Cha Cha Cha’ by MC Lyte released in the late ‘80s to go with his painting titled “Radiohead.”

The artists came up with the exhibit’s title, wanting to convey what prisoners think of the outside world and what the public thinks of prisons. 

“A lot of people in society have their preconceived notions of what prison life is like. And that’s because they’ve never been to prison,” Ramirez said. “The reality is that a person’s life is multifaceted and multilayered, and ‘The View From Here’ gets at that.”

The exhibition creates a space for dialogue between the public and the incarcerated. Richmond Art Center is also organizing a panel discussion on July 13 with Ramirez and artist Mwasi Fuvi, whose work is not part of the exhibition, alongside facilitators of the two prison art projects, Newborg and Phoebe Bachman. It will be followed by a mural painting workshop with Ramirez, where the community is welcome to help complete a mural designed by artists from the Pennsylvania prison.

The event and exhibit are free to attend.

(Photos: “Fishing from a Hole in a Wall” by Keith Andrews; “Bridge to Freedom” by Jeffrey A. Isom, photographer Peter Merts. Courtesy of Richmond Art Center)


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