About OPAC

What is Ohio Prison Arts Connection?

Ohio Prison Arts Connection is a coalition of people committed to building arts access for people in prison and re-entry, and to creating spaces for storytelling, resource-sharing, and dialogue both inside and outside of prisons.

We do this by: - supporting already-existing efforts to provide incarcerated people with arts experiences. - building bridges between the arts and culture sector and people who are justice-involved. - convening conversations about the role of the arts in humanizing our encounters with others, building healthy communities, cultivating economic opportunity, and changing trajectories. - creating resources to support arts programs in prisons and jails as well as re-entry spaces - and the teachers and facilitators that make them possible.

We include returned citizens, professional teaching artists, ODRC staff members, re-entry professionals, community supporters, representatives from higher education, funders, and more. We are supported by the Ohio Arts Council.

OPAC’s goal is to promote the transformative power of art and increase access to arts engagement and experiences for all people engaged in the carceral system. We are not a program-provider, but we exist to resource and connect those who are, and to encourage the development of new programs and partnerships so that more people can participate in the arts.

  • Creation
    • We support the freedom of artists...
      • To create art to imaginatively escape
      • To have access to resources, learning, and collaborative opportunities
      • To work in every discipline, and to work interdisciplinarily
  • Cultivation
    • We believe in the power of art...
      • To provide space for reflection, rehabilitation, and re-creation
      • To allow for the possibility of reimagination
      • To help in healing trauma
      • To expand people's capacities to collaborate and problem solve
      • To amplify stories
  • Community
    • We want to come together so we can...
      • Expand our knowledge about what is possible
      • Include the voices of the incarcerated
      • Collaborate with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
      • Collaborate with the Ohio Arts Council
      • Engage in collective research and development
      • Collectively educate about the power of the arts in the justice system - and seek resources to support the work.

What are we working on?

  • Pursuing a visual art contest with ODRC to provide an exhibition opportunity for incarcerated artists around the state, and to create a public platform for dialogue.
  • Building a toolkit of best practices, advice, and stories to support program development by teaching artists and prison staff. (Eventually, this will also encompass a digital archive of artwork, stories, and other modes of art documentation.)
  • Hosting an annual convening that functions as a statewide working meeting - next event in April 2020 at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
  • Planning a first-annual arts festival.
  • Making connections between artists and ODRC staff members to plant seeds for program development.
  • Building statewide circles of practice around restorative practices and the arts (and soon, around trauma-informed practice of the arts).
  • Launching a statewide conversation on re-entry and the arts by partnering with the Restored Citizens Summit in our state and various grassroots arts-based re-entry efforts.
  • Building our capacity to use our communication tools - website, newsletter, social media - as platforms for storytelling about artists and practitioners around the state, promote events, and share resources.


Dr. Jessie Glover, Lead Facilitator

Jessie is a teacher, theatre artist, and advocate for the arts. For the past four years Jessie has led Theatre of Conviction, a program of Healing Broken Circles, where she teaches classes in acting and dramatic literature and leads a company of men making theatre at Marion Correctional Institution. She is a founding board member for Wild Goose Creative, a nonprofit multidisciplinary community arts space in central Columbus, and is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Otterbein University in Theatre and Arts Administration. She holds a PhD from the University of Minnesota.

Steering Committee

Including ODRC staff members, teaching artists, program providers, returned citizens, and engaged community members, the steering committee plans and leads our initiatives.

Charlsie Banks - dancer, art therapist, Recreations staff member at Dayton Correctional
Deron Bell - director of Restorative Justice Arts in Montgomery County
Cory Blankenship - Recreations Director at Mansfield Correctional
Pam Braddy - Recreations Director at Pickaway Correctional
Pat Wynn Brown - Columbus-based theatre artist and director of Ladies of Success and Arts and Letters Society programs at Ohio Reformatory for Women
Dr. Steven Brown - Faculty Member in Philosophy at the Ohio State University
Stephen Canneto - public artist
Donna Collins - Executive Director of the Ohio Arts Council~
Annette Dominguez - Director of the Tapestry Program at Ohio Reformatory for Women
Eric Gardenhire - Recreations Director at Grafton Correctional
Gwendolyn Garth - Cleveland-based artist and activist, Director of Kings and Queens of Art
Kendra Hovey - Executive Director of Healing Broken Circles
Dr. Shannon Lakanen - Faculty Member in English at Otterbein University and Director of the Otterbein Prison Education Initiative
Dr. Cathy Roma - choir director for Hope Through Harmony at Dayton Correctional, UMOJA Men’s Chorus at London Correctional, and KUJI Men’s Chorus at Marion Correctional
Alana Ryder - Director of Public and University Programs at the Wexner Center for the Arts
Jarred Small - Arts Learning Coordinator at the Ohio Arts Council~
Judith Spater - social worker and artist
Vivian Stinson - art therapist, former Warden’s Assistant at Dayton Correctional (retired)
Aimee Wissman - Artist and Founder of Returning Artists Guild

~Advisory capacity only.