National Endowment for the Arts continues to fund Auburn’s Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project

Published: August 23, 2017
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Another grant from the National Endowment for the Arts will allow the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, or APAEP, at Auburn University to continue helping hundreds of students grow through the visual arts.

"The consistent support from the NEA has allowed us to have a continual presence in the visual arts, the avenue by which many of our students begin their careers with this program," said Kyes Stevens, the Auburn alumna who started the project in 2002 as a way of sharing the arts and humanities with individuals in Alabama Department of Corrections’ facilities. Stevens has served as director since its inception.

"Many students who started with drawing classes have continued on with courses across the spectrum," she added. "They understand that an arts class helps them step into a science class with a different vision and that it makes them a stronger artist and student."

The project recently received its ninth grant from NEA for $25,000. The NEA received 1,728 applications for its Art Works grant and awarded 1,029 of them ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

NEA funding has also allowed APAEP to publish anthologies of student work and build a traveling exhibition of student work called Art on the Inside.

The latest exhibit, presented by APAEP and East Alabama Arts, will open Thursday at the Southside Center for the Arts, 1103 Glenn St., in Opelika with a reception from 6:30-8 p.m. The exhibition will run through Oct. 14.

Art on the Inside has shown in such places as the Alabama State Council on the Arts in Montgomery, Gulf ArtSpace in Fairhope, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Auburn, Space One Eleven in Birmingham, Salt Space in New York City, the State University of New York and St. Louis University in Missouri.

APAEP art classes have been funded by the NEA, the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Joan Mitchell Foundation.

Besides the arts and humanities, APAEP curriculum has expanded over the years to include not-for-credit higher education courses in science, history and engineering. Classes are offered in 10 of Alabama’s 15 prisons.

The largest grant award to date was received in 2016 from the Laughing Gull Foundation’s Higher Education in Prison program to specifically support STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, education. The foundation’s program seeks to provide those incarcerated in the South greater access to credit-bearing college courses.

Also in 2016, the APAEP and Auburn were selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Education's Second Chance Pell Grant program. Auburn and 66 other colleges and universities across the country are now able to offer postsecondary educational programs to incarcerated individuals who are eligible for federal financial aid.

According to a report from the RAND Corporation in 2013, the more a person educates themselves while incarcerated, the more likely they are to stay out of prison once released.

The Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project is part of the University College at Auburn University. For more information, visit

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