Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Prison Arts Collective at SDSU Receives $35K Grant from the NEA

National Endowment for the Arts Funds will create opportunities for learning, teaching, and collaborative art experiences

Prison Arts Collective at SDSU Receives $35K Grant from the NEA

by By Mara Parker

June 3, 2021

San Diego State University Foundation (SDSURF) has been approved for a $35K Grants for Arts Projects by the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant will benefit the Prison Arts Collective (PAC), a program under the auspices of SDSURF and headquartered at the San Diego State University School of Art and Design. Awarded funds will be used to engage incarcerated peer leaders with SDSU faculty and students in developing and presenting collaborative arts projects.

PAC is among the more than 1,100 recipients across America receiving grants totaling nearly $27 million that were selected during this second round of Grants for Art Projects fiscal year 2021 of funding.

“As the country and the arts begin to imagine returning to a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce funding that will help arts organizations such as Prison Arts Collective re-engage with partners and audience,” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “Although the arts have sustained many during the pandemic, the chance to gather with one another and share arts experience is its own necessity and pleasure.”

Though this is the second NEA grant awarded to PAC under the leadership of SDSU School of Art and Design Director, Annie Buckley, it is the first one to include SDSU students and faculty.

This is also the first project to include a dance element. SDSU Associate Professor of Dance and PAC Faculty Associate Jess Humphrey will participate as a co-facilitator with Buckley.

Founded in 2013, and now serving 17 facilities in 11 California prisons, PAC integrates the cultivation of a safe space, creative practice, historical or cultural content, and reflections, encouraging incarcerated participants to stretch their understandings of themselves, their art, and the world around them even in such limited surroundings.

“I am honored and humbled for our work to be recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts. This project will allow us to work more in-depth with participants in the prisons and with our students on campus and to further build bridges between these two learning sites,” said Annie Buckley, founder and executive director of PAC and director of SDSU’s School of Art and Design.

Through this project, Buckley and Humphrey aim to cultivate community and to break down barriers while working collaboratively to create a visual and performing piece.

Successful completion of the project will allow participants, incarcerated or not, to see themselves as part of a whole and to understand each other from a different perspective. Since participants will be faculty and students from SDSU and peer facilitators in the PAC program, each of the participants can take what is learned and share it with their students allowing for a transfer and sharing of knowledge across spaces.

For Jamie Pelusi, SDSU School of Art and Design master of fine arts candidate and PAC program assistant, working with incarcerated individuals through PAC has been a valuable and enlightening experience and one she recommends to other School of Art and Design students. “If we only sit in classrooms or studios and learn content and skills, but never step outside into the community to share and reflect on what we are learning, I believe we are missing an opportunity for growth, both artistically and personally.’” said Pelusi. “Working with PAC not only allows a student to develop their artistic practice, but it provides a place to interrogate the injustices that created the need for PAC in the first place.”

Funds from this recent NEA grant will be used to hire one to two student project assistants. Buckley plans to integrate the project into a class to be offered in Fall 2022.

To learn more about the Prison Arts Collective visit

For more information on the projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, visit

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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