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Prison Education Spotlight: The Book Arts Project

October 14, 2019
Thanks to a generous grant from the Elizabeth A. Sackler Museum Educational Trust, Marymount Manhattan students at the Bedford Hills College Program (BHCP) and on the main 71st Street campus began the journey of collaboratively writing and visually interpreting fables last year. This concept—dubbed The Book Arts Project—advances MMC’s BRIDGE model of college- and university-based prison education programs.

The two-fold purpose of the BRIDGE model—which stands for Building Relationships for Inclusion, Diversity, Globalism, and Equity—is to enrich all students’ educational experiences through the free exchange of ideas and dialogue across locations and to pave the way for more seamless re-entry of incarcerated students to society. Through The Book Arts Project, the two populations—those on the “inside” and those on the “outside”— benefit not only from the opportunity for creative expression, but also from mutual critique, dialogue, and artistic collaboration across their divide, thereby promoting self-understanding and empathy, as well as a shared vision for a more just society.

The Book Arts Project began in January 2019 with ten BHCP students who participated in MMC faculty-led writing courses that focused on generating original fables. Over the summer, additional BHCP students worked on the fables written during the previous semester, honing the drafts and creating art for the tales. The stories and artwork were then shared with main campus students enrolled in Digital Imaging with Julia Gran, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art, at the start of the 2019–20 academic year. Those students continue to work on the fables and art this semester. Exhibitions of the final projects will take place in early 2020 at both locations.

The Book Arts Project was inspired by a similar multimedia project produced by BHCP student Connie Leung, who created a Chinese fable-based illustrated book, The Phoenix and the Dove, for one of her courses. The process was documented via video by MMC faculty and students, and the book that Leung created was subsequently animated.

This piece appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of MMC Magazine (page 29)