Giving LGBTQ Prisoners a Voice at Abrons Art Center

Art Scene, DVSproject

Giving LGBTQ Prisoners a Voice at Abrons Art Center

LGBTQ prisoners face a dramatically higher risk of being physically or sexually victimized compared to other inmates. A survey conducted by the national grassroots organization, Black & Pink, found that they are in fact six times more likely to be discriminated against, harassed, or assaulted–not just by the general prison population, but also by prison staff.

On The Inside: A Group Show Of LGBTQ Artists Who Are Currently Incarcerated explored the trials, tribulations, works and innovations of LGBTQ prisoners, empowering them both within their prison cells and on the outside. The Abrons Art Center exhibition was the culmination of a multi-year project conceived by filmmaker and activist, Tatiana von Fürstenberg, in collaboration with Black & Pink, and designed by Eline Mul.

“The art is made from basic materials the prisoners have access to behind bars: mostly letter-sized paper, dull pencils, ball-point pen ink tubes (the hard shell is deemed too dangerous), and unlikely innovations such as using an asthma inhaler with Kool-aid to create an air brushed painting,” Abrons Art Center explains on its website. “The project started with a small ad in the Black and Pink newsletter, a monthly publication filled with prisoner-generated content. Ignited and inspired by this call for art, more than 4,000 pieces were submitted. Our forgotten brothers and sisters seized this opportunity to be heard, giving birth to this collective exhibition.”

In addition to seeing a glimpse into challenging lives, viewers were able to communicate with the artists via transcribed text, and even establish a long-term PenPal arrangement. All of the artists were compensated for their work.

Duggal Visual Solutions’ Hillary Altman collaborated with the exhibition team as Duggal produced a wide assortment of adhesive wallpaper and CAD-cut lettering for the space at Abrons Art Center. The Duggal Creative Studio also provided large-scale retouching to ensure image quality and integrity. We are always proud of our work, but the ultimate pride in this case lied in giving a voice to those who desperately need–and truly deserve–to be heard. The artists from the show can still be reached by visiting the exhibition website,