Helping Incarcerated Women Heal Through Art

Female prisoners at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility exhibit their work in Manhattan.

​Whether you’re creating art, enjoying it, or both, you know that art has the power to heal — emotionally, spiritually, and even, in some cases, physically. Some would argue that art, like education, has the power to help rehabilitate as well.

No one knows this better than students of and faculty at the Bedford Hills College Program (BHCP). The program, in which women incarcerated at Westchester’s maximum-security prison for women, the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, can pursue college degrees granted by Marymount Manhattan College (MMC). The program offers both associate and bachelor degrees in social sciences and sociology, respectively.

The recidivism rate among BHCP graduates who are released from prison is, according to the program, virtually zero, compared to the national average of 43.9 percent for women.

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This year, as MMC and the BHCP recognize 20 successful years of granting college degrees to inmates, MMC will also celebrate the opening of The Moby-Dick Project, an exhibition of artworks created by women artists of the BHCP. The works are based on the Herman Melville novel, and were created by the women after taking a course called “Illustrating the Novel,” taught by professor and artist Duston Spear.

Their artwork will be exhibited along with works by other artists whose pieces “share an affinity” with the novel.

The exhibition opens on November 2, and the opening reception will include a special, one-night-only display of additional BHCP student work (including academic writings and poetry), as well as a film about the history of the program.

The Moby-Dick Project is curated by MMC Professor of Art and Director of the Hewitt Gallery Hallie Cohen and Professor Duston Spear. The exhibition is a recipient of the 2017 New York Foundation for the Arts Opportunity Grant and runs through December 6.

Opening Reception: Thursday, November 2, 6 – 8 pm

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Location:  Hewitt Gallery of Art, Marymount Manhattan College,  221 E 71st St, New York City.


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