Breaking the Boundaries


The William James Association and the National Park Service are pleased to invite Alcatraz visitors to a panel of ex-inmate artists on Saturday, December 8 at 1 PM in conjunction with the current exhibition, "Breaking the Boundaries: San Quentin Prison Arts Project", on display in the Alcatraz Cellblock Gallery through January 18, 2013.

The three artists will tell their stories of how art has helped them turn their lives around, and Steve Emrick, an international 'hero of compassion' recognized by the Dalai Lama, will talk about his 20 years working as an artist inside California prisons through California's former Arts-in-Corrections Program. The artists will also present some of their new work, and talk about the challenges of transitioning from prison back to outside life.

After the panel, the audience will have a chance to tour the "Breaking the Boundaries" exhibition as well as the rest of the island.

"Breaking the Boundaries: San Quentin's Prison Arts Project with Photos by Peter Merts"
Comes to Alcatraz, September 18, 2012 - January 15, 2013

During the time that it served as a Federal Penitentiary, Alcatraz presented a cold and stark environment for the convicts sent there to do bide their time. Confined to a cell for much of their time, many have found solace and redemption in a variety of activities such as working in the industries or the arts such as music or painting.

To recognize the value provided by immersion in the arts, Alcatraz is pleased to announce the opening of "Breaking the Boundaries" exhibit in the Cell House. Breaking the Boundaries" will feature beautiful, original and surprising paintings and prints from San Quentin's Prisons Arts Project. In addition, Peter Merts' documentary photographs of the inmates in the San Quentin art studio offer further insight and perspective on this successful and original program which helps inmates learn to grow and change and become participating members of society.

San Quentin's Prison Arts Project is sponsored by the non-profit William James Association and includes classes in painting, drawing, printmaking, creative writing, music and theater. The Prison Arts Project is what's left of the statewide Arts-in-Corrections Program, a highly successful multi-disciplinary program in all state prisons, which was ended by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation due to budget cuts in 2010, after 30 years of success.

Arts programs in prison have been shown to correlate to reduced recidivism (return-to-prison) and improved behavior, which saves money for the state's taxpayers and improves the quality of life for inmates and our communities. (Please see for further information on these studies.)

There will be an opening celebration on Alcatraz Friday, October 26, from 4-7 pm. The new book, Paths of Discovery, featuring interviews with inmates from Arts-in-Corrections, by Larry Brewster of the University of San Francisco, with photos by Peter Merts, will be celebrated, and there will be entertainment, refreshments and special guest speakers. For ticket information, please visit

About Peter Merts:
Peter Merts has documented community based arts programs such as Bread and Roses as well as Prison Arts Project for over 25

About the William James Association:
The William James Association is a small non-profit whose largest program is San Quentin Prison Arts Project. Its mission is to promote work service in the arts, environment, education, and community development.

Last updated: November 26, 2012

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