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Resources for Arts Organisations

Resources for arts organisations

Information and resources on working with offenders and ex-offenders within your arts organisation.

Increasingly, galleries and museums are working with arts and criminal justice organisations to increase participation by offenders, ex-offenders and people at risk of offending. The introduction of Arts Council England (ACE)’s Creative Case for Diversity means that every organisation in receipt of ACE funding needs to adhere to their mission of great art and culture for everyone. Galleries and museums can play a key part in re-introducing offenders and ex-offenders into the community on their release, resulting in an overall positive impact for local communities.

This year, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published its new Culture White Paper, setting out the government’s vision, strategy and proposals for the cultural sectors. In the Paper, the former Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey expressed recognition of the dynamic and necessary role arts and culture can play in transforming individual lives and communities, including that of prisoners, ex-offenders and those at risk of becoming involved in crime. Click here for more information on the Culture White Paper.

Useful links and resources

  • The Arts Council
  • The Ministry of Justice
  • Youth Justice Board
  • The Museum Association – Museums and Prisons
    a resource from the Museums Association on the impact museum objects and visual arts can have on prisoners.
  • Arts Award – Young Offenders
    a section of the Arts Award website dedicated to using the Arts Award in youth justice organisations, including with youth offending teams and services, secure units and youth work organisations and charities.
  • ArtWorks
    UK umbrella for organisations with strategic or development interests in any branch of participatory arts, including community arts, socially-engaged arts, voluntary arts, and arts in education and learning.
  • Creating Change
    national network of organisations involved in creative participatory group work with children and young people at risk.

What is art therapy?

Although many of our members use the arts therapeutically, there is a difference between using arts interventions in criminal justice settings and art therapy as a practice. The British Association of Art Therapists describes art therapy as “a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication. Within this context, art is not used as a diagnostic tool but as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing.” MIND refers to different kinds of arts therapies, including dance movement therapy, dramatherapy, music therapy and visual art therapy. They add that “the aim isn’t to produce a great work of art, but to use what you create to understand yourself better.”

Arts and criminal justice in Scotland

The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance works in England and Wales. Scotland also has a thriving arts and criminal justice sector. They have their own network, the Scottish Prison Arts Network (SPAN), providing a focus for sharing practice, connecting artists, supporting organisations and articulating the importance and impact of making art with offenders and their families in Scotland. Click here to find out more.

Examples of collaborative arts projects happening between the Criminal Justice System and arts organisations:

  • Watts Gallery’s Big Issues project – the gallery works with local community groups from in and around Surrey offering practical art, craft and design workshops led by professional artists and designers. The art produced is then displayed in an annual exhibition in which participants are given the opportunity to sell their work. Read our case study on the Watts Gallery’s Big Issues Project here.
  • Homeless Link’s Get creative: arts for all – is a national project that aims to increase homeless people’s participation in arts and cultural activities in England as a sustainable route out of homelessness. Click here for more information.
  • Koestler Trust and the Southbank Centre – every year the Koestler Trust (a national prison arts charity) has worked with the Southbank Centre, London, to put on their annual Koestler Awards exhibition. Click here for more information.

National organisations that have worked with offenders

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Image (c) Paul Gent