Since February 2016, Talbot Rice Gallery (TRG) has been taking exhibitions out of the gallery walls and into the art room at HMP Shotts in North Lanarkshire.
HMP Shotts is a modern prison with a population of around 500 men. They have an active education suite run by New College Lanarkshire where TRG have delivered talks and practical workshops which bring alive the themes inherent in our current exhibitions. New College Lanarkshire Art Lecturer Hazel Moore runs a committed art group and, in her students, has sparked a dedicated interest in both art making and theory.
The men have been incredibly receptive and engaged every time we have worked with them. Many have discovered their artistic skills since going to prison and have focussed their energy positively into learning more about artists, art theory and history while developing their draughtsmanship and making skills in parallel. In support of their learning, visitors to the prison art group have included Rachael MacLean, an Edinburgh College of Art graduate who is currently representing Scotland at the Venice Biennale, and Turner Prize Winner Jeremy Deller.
The prisoners' first experience of TRG came via The British Art Show 8, a major survey show that happens every 5 years showcasing the best art and most exciting artists working in the country. Next came Alice Neel: The Subject and Me, followed by Between poles and tides, a group show featuring contemporary acquisitions of the University of Edinburgh Collections. Each exhibition presented new themes and opportunities to open up ideas about what art can be and instigate lively debate and discussion with the group. Work the prisoners have made as a result of these workshops contributed towards this year's submissions to the Koestler Awards, the UK’s art awards scheme for offenders, secure patients and detainees.