Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Final debrief of the Canery

Erin's picture

As we are approaching the end of semester, we stand at the cross rod to really think back and evaluate what we have done this semester.

Last Thursday, when were discuss a text about participatory action research by Lois Weis and Michelle Fine in Working Method, we touched based upon many critical questions about the effects and purpose of our art workshop in prison.  I want to expand more on that topic as well as our last workshop.

Firstly, one valued was emphasized was to be able to challenge the traditional power relationship. Such a statement was very easy to say but hard to execute. In our case, two groups of women were brought together and doing the same art project corporately. Various background and social status were mixed in the room and conflicts were expected. I don’t know which group benefits more from such a gathering. However, we can’t that each one us were able to see a different side of the concept were talking about form others, For me, even their positions in this society were inmates. I was able to, for the first time, to have “real-life” interpretation of what dies justice system do to individuals’ lives.

Secondly, the need to get acquainted with the culture of the research group was also mentioned in the article. Participatory action researchers have long recognized, insiders carry knowledge, critique, and a line of vision that are not easily recognized to people from outside. I felt hard to apply this to our art workshop in Canery since we seem avoid the discussion of what was the life like inside except one time we were trying to figure the issue of privacy. Even such a brief, we were able to see the complex environment and tensions among member in that community.  At the same time, I do feel that the regulations e set at the very beginning was necessary and really gave us a good foundation to build a harmonious relationships because these rules prepare us the worse situations we could face and  allow us more freedom and easiness when the situations are normal. Such rules were set to allow us to have a basic expectation for the culture inside,

To be honest, I was surprised to hear all the positive feedbacks and was extremely touched by the warm environment we had. I think I have had this kind of shameful feeling since the beginning because I really doubted that I could be any useful to their incarceration period. I assumed this period of time would only one-direction business, us taking advantage of their lives. At the end, I realize the sincerity across the room power of art do make differences in both lives.  At the end, I indeed felt the changes we were able to make new understandings about each other and this society were obtained.

Finally, I want, again thank all the people who make this project happening and just like I said in the final closing. Art is discovering and this workshop indeed helps me discovering some perspective of me which I didn’t pay attention to before.