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. We also receive financial support from the Greater Columbus Arts Council, the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, Puffin Foundation West, the Braddock Fund, and - thanks to a partnership with the Ohio Transformation Fund - the Art for Justice Fund.

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 during the time of COVID-19?

  • Radio OPAC, a weekly conversation series with people working at the intersection of the arts and the justice system. Tune in most Wednesdays at noon EST to Facebook Live!
  • Building a quarantine chapbook with submissions from artists, writers, poets, and other creative people incarcerated around Ohio.
  • OPAC Creative Care Packages are booklets of creative writing, drawing, and other prompts to help incarcerated people connect to their creative selves. We've received submissions for two editions and have made copies available to incarcerated people in five prisons around Ohio. Anyone can access and use the books for any reason. If you would like to contribute, email us a creative writing or drawing prompt with the subject line "OPAC Creative Care Package." -Launching a poster series about the impact of the arts, featuring artwork by returned artists and the words and stories of justice-involved artists and art program facilitators.
  • Curating an exhibition of artwork for an upcoming exhibition at the Carnegie Gallery in the Columbus Main Library.
  • Building a document of useful resources for teaching artists and justice-involved artists during the time of COVID-19.

Please stay tuned - we will be scheduling a statewide gathering to take place at the Wexner Center for the Arts once it is safe to do so.

We'll also feature artwork by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated artists at the next Columbus Arts Festival.


Dr. Jessie Glover, Lead Facilitator

Jessie is a teacher, theatre artist, and advocate for the arts. For the past five 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 Lecturer at Otterbein University in Theatre and Arts Administration. She holds a PhD from the University of Minnesota.

Tara Smith, Research Assistant

Interns: Lindsay Lisanti, Avery Barrett, Kora Duvall, Taylor Reiter, and Logan Reeder

Steering Committee and collaborators

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
Dr. Christopher Dum - Faculty Member at Kent State University and Director of the ID-13 Literacy Project
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
Edward A Julian Sr - Author, poet, and motivational speaker
Dr. Shannon Lakanen - Faculty Member in English at Otterbein University and Director of the Otterbein Prison Education Initiative
Lauren Pond - Curator of Fresh A.I.R. Gallery
Evan Rausch - Lead for Jail Guitar Doors at Grafton Correctional Institution
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
Zach Ruppel - Director of the Central Ohio Restored Citizens Collaborative
Alana Ryder - Director of Public and University Programs at the Wexner Center for the Arts
Denise Shumway - Writer
Holly Smith - Arts Therapist for Clarity Ohio
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.