Sara Meadows Editor-in-Chief
On the Inside is a group show of LGBTQ+ artists who are currently incarcerated.
The art is made from basic materials that the prisoners have access to behind bars: mostly letter-sized paper, dull pencils, ball-point pen ink tubes, and an asthma inhaler with Kool-Aid to create an airbrushed painting.
The exhibit will be on display until July 31 at the Osborne Family Gallery located on the main floor of the Criss Library.
“Criss Library is a fantastic place for this exhibit because the Osborne Family Gallery is such a beautiful space that lends itself to these types of 360, immersive exhibits,” said Claire Du Laney, project coordinator for On the Inside at Criss Library.
The art demonstrates the ability of those who are suffering to still create beauty. Each of the pieces tells a story; a story worth listening to.
None of the artists will be in attendance as they are still incarcerated, however, their work creates cracks in the walls, allowing this much-needed point of view to escape for the world to see.
“The exhibit is powerful because it seamlessly connects artistry with human rights activism, exploring themes of agency, dignity, and humanity of LGBTQ+ individuals currently incarcerated,” Du Laney said.
Du Laney also organized two speaking events for the display, one happened on June 13 featuring Professor Peggy Jones and Professor Steve Langan. They both focused on their work with UNO TRAC (Transforming, Renewing, Achieving, and Connecting).
The second speaker on July 12 was via Zoom, featuring Tatiana von Furstenberg, project creator, and Eline Mul, exhibit designer.
The exhibit is the culmination of a multi-year project conceived by Tatiana von Furstenberg in collaboration with Black & Pink, a prison abolitionist organization supporting LGBTQ+ and HIV-positive prisoners.
“Not only does the exhibit promote changes and dialogue in policy and practices of incarceration through its connection with Black & Pink,” Du Laney said. “But the artwork helps restore the agency of individuals and provide an avenue for them to reclaim their voice, their identity, and their dignity.”
Ignited and inspired by this call for art, more than 4,000 pieces were submitted. The original exhibit was first on display in New York City in 2016 and Los Angeles in 2019.
“I hope visitors leave with an appreciation for the creativity, resilience, and power of LGBTQ+ folks,” said Amy Schindler, director of Archives and Special Collections at Criss Library.
Winona State University was the first university to host this traveling exhibit in January 2022, and the Osborne Family Gallery at UNO followed as the second university in the country to host this exhibit.
As the On the Inside website testifies, “Through the lens of art, we on the outside have the opportunity to bear witness to the suffering and also celebrate the resilience of the artists who are locked up.”