BAMPFA’s ‘San Quentin Project’ looks at life inside the state prison

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These days, artist Nigel Poor is probably best known as a co-host of Ear Hustle, a podcast that takes listeners behind the scenes of San Quentin State Prison and gives an intimate view of what it’s like to be an inmate at the men’s correctional facility in Marin, County.

But before Ear Hustle, in 2011, Poor began volunteering as a professor for the Prison University Project, a nonprofit that provides higher education at the prison. In her visual literacy and photography courses, she asked her students to react to photos — by notable photographers and from the prison’s photo archive — and explore their meaning in what she called “mapping exercises.”

From these courses came The San Quentin Project: Nigel Poor and the Men of San Quentin State Prison, now on display at BAMPFA through Nov. 17, 2019. The exhibition includes nearly 30 mapping exercises that the men of San Quentin made in collaboration with Poor. It also presents photos from an uncatalogued archive of thousands of negatives made inside the prison from the 1930s to the 1980s. And, Ear Hustle fans can listen to select episodes of the podcast at a listening station.

Read more about BAMPFA’s exhibit, The San Quentin Project.