“We Bear” exhibit showcases prisoner artwork during the pandemic

As part of the University of Michigan’s Prison Creative Arts Project, the exhibit will make its U.S. debut at the Ann Arbor Art Fair from July 21-23.

We Bear artwork by Parker Ayers

The Ann Arbor Art Fair is one of the largest in the country. It brings in more than half a million attendees over a three day span. This year, it will include the U.S. debut of a unique art exhibit sourced by the University of Michigan’s Prison Creative Arts Project.

We Bear” features the work of more than a dozen artists incarcerated in the Ann Arbor area, and a dozen more from across the United Kingdom. After a successful showing at the Coventry Biennial in England, the exhibit will appear at the Ann Arbor Art Fair from July 21-23.

Each artist was invited to participate in the project by artist Faye Claridge, who encouraged them to create new artworks inspired by the Warwickshire symbol of the chained bear.

In the height of the pandemic, inmates spent 23 hours per day in their cells in isolation from others, with no access to materials or education spaces, according to a U-M release. Visits were also restricted. 

Citizens for Prison Reform will also have an interactive model of a solitary cell on display at the fair for visitors to experience the conditions under which these artists were finding their inspiration and creating their art.

Listen: Ann Arbor Art Fair spokesperson Karen Delhey and “We Bear” artist Faye Claridge talk exhibit



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  • Tia Graham
    Tia Graham is a reporter and Weekend Edition Host for 101.9 WDET. She graduated from Michigan State University where she had the unique privilege of covering former President Barack Obama and his trip to Lansing in 2014.