For Immediate Release
March 17, 2017

Contact: Catherine J. Trujillo

Cal Poly Kennedy Library to Display ‘Between the Bars’ Art Exhibit April 6-June 9

SAN LUIS OBISPO — “Between the Bars,” a Cal Poly senior project exhibition featuring work by incarcerated artists at the California Men’s Colony, will be on display April 6 through June 9 at the Gallery at the Commons on the second floor of the Kennedy Library on campus.

The public is invited to an opening reception from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, in the gallery. Cal Poly sociology Professor Unique Shaw-Smith will provide opening remarks, and actors from the Poetic Justice Project will perform.

“Between the Bars” aims to undo negative stereotypes and to empower the rehabilitation of incarcerated artists individually and collectively through art. The exhibit is intended to demonstrate that rehabilitation does occur in prison and emphasize that art has the power to transcend social differences and divisions. The exhibit features more than 60 works of art in mediums that include sculpture, painting and poetry by 34 incarcerated artists. Despite limited resources, the men featured in the exhibit display a profound range of artistic styles and themes, said Shaw-Smith.

The exhibit was co-directed by Cal Poly students and faculty along with California Men’s Colony Senior Librarian Patrick Moloney. Many of the artists at the California Men’s Colony are participating in Cuesta College’s educational program for incarcerated men. “The collaborative team effort provided an avenue to showcase a rehabilitative initiative that has tangible restorative benefits for those who are incarcerated by underpinning the notion that they are not defined by their crimes,” Shaw-Smith said.

The artists were grateful for the opportunity and the impact the show has had on their lives. “For the Cal Poly team to dedicate so much time and effort into this project is nothing short of amazing,” said a featured artist. “Despite our mistakes, they talk to us like human beings, without pretense or disdain. Not only are they elevating and educating us, they are also helping to bridge the gap between prisoners and society. They are helping to eliminate stereotypes and bring about new viewpoints.”

“Between the Bars” is sponsored by Cal Poly’s Sociology Department and Kennedy Library, and the California Men’s Colony and Cuesta College.

The exhibit is open during regular Kennedy Library hours: 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday. For more information, call 805-756-6395, email, or go online to

About the Poetic Justice Project
The Poetic Justice Project began in 2009 with the goal of advancing social justice by engaging formerly incarcerated youth and adults in arts education, mentoring and the creation of original theater examining crime, punishment and redemption.

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