Community-Based Art Program at CSUSB Receives Grants to Expand Outreach in Correctional Facilities


By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley) – Last spring, Community-Based Art at California State University, San Bernardino received funding from several sources in an effort to extend art into the community: a grant for more than $45,000 from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; $9,864 in grant funding from CSUSB’s Office of Student Research, including the Summer Research Grant and a small travel grant; and an award of $1,500 from the William James Foundation, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco.

Community-based Art is an approach to making, teaching and learning art that directly engages the community. CSUSB art students facilitate art classes in local community sites that otherwise have little or no access to art. As a result, CBA Prison Arts Collective emerged to bring art classes and workshops to those that are incarcerated in the California state prison system.

In 2013, the CBA began with a pilot program between CSUSB and the California Institution for Men in Chino, offering four art classes to 45 incarcerated individuals. Today the project offers 15 art classes and workshops and helped create a 45-foot collaborative mural over a nine-month period.

The grants have allowed CBA to bring art classes to two additional prisons, the California Institution for Women in Chino and the California State Prison of Los Angeles County men’s prison in Lancaster.

In addition to the prisons in Chino and Lancaster, CBA has collaborated with the CSUSB Re-entry Initiative in San Bernardino, offering weekly classes last spring and working with them on a mural restoration over the summer. The $45,000 Innovative Programs grant from the CDCR was awarded to CBA to create a volunteer-based art program at the Lancaster men’s prison that is modeled after the program already in place at the California Institution for Men in Chino, now in its third year.

“This grant allowed us to hire two part-time project coordinators, art student April Baca and alumna Cesia Ortiz, who graduated with a B.A. in art in 2014,” said Annie Buckley, CSUSB associate professor of visual studies and founder/director of CBA. “These students were instrumental in recruiting local volunteers and scheduling the summer pilot program that began earlier this month.”

The summer research grant from the Office of Student Research provided a stipend to hire three part-time research assistants to focus on three areas: structuring and evaluating the program, overseeing / teaching new programs, and researching artists for a new online publication, Radical Actions: From Teaching Artists to Social Practice, which Buckley is co-organizing with Mary Anna Pomonis, a Los Angeles-based artist, curator and educator.

In addition to the initial three research assistants, OSR provided $1,064 in additional funds to support a part-time position on the research team, and $500 in additional funds to supplement a $1,500 grant from the William James Foundation for three CBA fellowships to attend the Arts-in-Correction Conference in San Francisco this past June.

“With the funds from OSR and the William James Foundation, April, Cesia and I were able to attend the conference and learned so much to help our work in the coming months as we build the programs at the two additional prisons,” said Buckley. “We made connections with many in the field.”

“As artists, writers, students, alumni and volunteers, we are guided not only by the philosophy and history of the CBA project, but by the principles of restorative justice,” said Buckley.

Inmate participant, E. Gonzalez said, “With this opportunity I pass on an important message: change is possible, especially through art. My fellow inmates now have a safe place to explore their creative side.”

“We also have a small project with the CSUSB Re-entry Initiative,” said Buckley. “Beside our Prison Arts Collective, we work with local community partners, including Waterman Gardens Boys and Girls Club, Our House, EngAge, and Job Corps, to bring ongoing arts programming to children, youth, and seniors.”

“EngAGE has been fortunate to work with CSUSB art education students at one of our low-income senior apartment communities in San Bernardino on two separate occasions,” said Alma Wright, Regional Programs Director for EngAge. “During these weekly art sessions, their extensive knowledge has highly benefited our residents, not to mention that having the opportunity to learn about and try various art media and techniques has been a priceless experience for them,” she said.

Art provides many benefits but S. Hunter, inmate participant with the CBA Prison Arts Collective, explained it best: “When I become angry, painting calms me down. When I become lonely, painting comforts me. When I become confused, painting brings me clarity. When I experience painful emotions, painting helps me re-connect to positive emotions and I never want to used drugs or alcohol again.”

For more information about CSUSB Community-based Art, contact Professor Annie Buckley at and visit

OSR facilitates student engagement in scholarly and creative activities through a number of grants and programs at CSUSB. For more information about OSR, please call (909) 537-5058 or visit

Set in the foothills of the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains, CSUSB is a preeminent center of intellectual and cultural activity in inland Southern California. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015, CSUSB serves more than 20,000 students each year and graduates about 4,000 students annually.

For more information about Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-5007 and visit

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