Episode 7

Art Against the Odds: Wisconsin Prison Art w/ Portrait Society Gallery

Published on: 20th December, 2022

This week on the pod, Elisabeth speaks with Debra Brehmer and Paul Salsieder from Portrait Society Gallery of Contemporary Art, who joined to speak about the forthcoming exhibition Art Against the Odds: Wisconsin Prison Art. The exhibition features works of art by over 60 incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals from Wisconsin.

Throughout the conversation, Deb and Paul reflect on how these artists are making work “to survive,” and are doing so by drawing on inventiveness, without spaces that are in their control, reliable access to materials, and a myriad of other restrictions. And yet, the artists create work that are sometimes "joyous outpourings”. As Paul remarks, as in wider society, each artist in the exhibition comes to his practice with his own unique, skills, experience and motivations for creating. 

Ultimately, they hope that the show can be source of sparking dialogue about the issues with Wisconsin’s carceral system, mass incarceration and its after effects that often includes recidivism. They hope these conversations can translate into awareness and reform, and that the effect of seeing the show will be to humanize an otherwise invisible population, and give voice to the voiceless, and allow the artists to engage with the outside world in a positive way.   

Art Against the Odds opens at MIAD on January 16, with an opening celebration on January 19. There will be panel discussions held throughout the run of the show. Learn more at Artagainstheodds.org.  

Portrait Society Gallery, or follow PSG on Instagram.  

From artist Mario Rickett’s letter in the intro: 

“Life is like a pencil. Sometimes we want to erase our mistakes and draw things over again in our lives. But with that pencil... we can do and make beautiful and extraordinary things. And when we erase, we are learning—it's just up to us to keep going.”  

Feast of Crispian 

On the Wing 

House of Peace 

M Winston 

Outsider Art Fair 

Shannon Ross 

Jessica Wolfendale 

Bob Ross 

Rahr West Art Museum 

Neville Public Museum 



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Creative MKE
Milwaukee is an arts hub. The city's creatives, entrepreneuers, arts and culture organizations, and businesses are part of an interconnected creative economy that is fueling growth and community wellbeing in powerful ways.
Join Elisabeth Gasparka for this conversation show from Imagine MKE, where we hear from creative leaders in Milwaukee and beyond, to highlight all the incredible transformative power of their work in our region. We hope that after listening to the pod you’ll be able to imagine Milwaukee's arts and culture ecosystem—and all the awesome artists, organizations and creative assets within it, in a new way.
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