The Art of Life through the Life of Art

This project uses artistic activities to develop the practical skills of prisoners at Plovdiv Prison. The program includes a combination of different types of applied and fine arts, creative writing and theater sessions, titled “Our boundaries for art”.

Our goal is to improve participants’ opportunities for social inclusion, reintegration and employment upon their release. Our ambition is to recognize, appreciate and validate the skills gained through of art and theater by using an innovative assessment system that was developed in our partnership project in 2017.

Persons serving custodial sentences have traditionally been excluded from the cultural life of the city. Through our activities, they will be able to engage in theater and art activities and participate in public, creative and media appearances – an opportunity they rarely get, even outside. As an added value, by presenting their products to the general public, we believe that we will contribute to overcome the stereotype and stigma with regard to prisoners and to improve the capabilities of the prisoners involved in the project, social inclusion and participation in the social and cultural life of our city.

Why do artistic activities in prison?

This project is based on the study and monitoring of rehabilitation programs in penitentiary institutions in Bulgaria, 6 EU countries (Belgium, Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus) and Turkey, which report positive results and a high rate of rehabilitation of prisoners through their participation in artistic activities and theater.

In many prisons, artistic activities are carried out in Bulgaria, but they are often seen as something frivolous as a means of filling the time and in no way register and recognize the skills acquired through art and theater.

Research shows that in the creative way, one can gain new experience and knowledge and often finds constructive solutions to their own problem, especially when this process is structured. Not surprisingly, art with all its manifestations is used as a powerful therapeutic and training tool. The art classes are suitable for people of different ages and socio-economic backgrounds, including people with disabilities, intellectual and mental challenges, addicted persons and other marginalized groups and disadvantaged people. Via art it is possible to skip several barriers (for example, the language barrier and literacy level), so we have titled the modules: Our Boundries for Art.

Our organization has good previous experience and proven positive impact on the target groups using artistic activities in prisons and implemented rehabilitation projects, and the continuation of these activities ensures sustainability of the results achieved and their upgrading with more innovation and greater impact.

Exhibition Our Margins for ART
The clocks were made by the prisoners in the Decoupage Workshops, led by Neli Mihailova
The project is part of the Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019