- Prison Performing Arts
PPA is Back at MECC with Arts & Healing
Prison Performing Arts is excited to be back at the first prison we ever worked in, Missouri Eastern Correctional Center. We're back to MECC for the first time since 2019. We are starting things off by introducing our new Arts & Healing program to the artists at the Pacific, MO facility.
The pilot Arts & Healing run at MECC is a 12-week program:
Four weeks of writing classes taught by Rachel Tibbetts with support from Courtney Bailey exploring monologue writing, crafting meaningful dialogue into mini-plays, and revising text for performance.
Four weeks of visual art classes led by Maria Ojascastro exploring how visual arts can be used as an expressive tool that helps you adapt to life challenges, allows you to observe your world in a productive way, and enhances the brain’s natural ability to form new connections, thus enabling you to grow in well-being. Participants focus on contemplative and self-awareness artwork through painting, drawing, and collaging
Four weeks of theatre classes led by Bess Moynihan with training in vocal performance, acting and movement. Utilizing The Viewpoints technique, participants explore the art of expression and communication through gestures, shape, and tempo. A culture of "play" is the basis to create a safe space to explore dynamic performance methods and self-expression.
A culminating performance.
About Arts & Healing
Launched in 2021, PPA's Arts & Healing program has served individuals completing their sentences at the Transition Center of St. Louis, a community reentry facility in North St. Louis City operated by the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Historically, PPA has offered theatre as the primary artistic discipline in the programming at MECC. As we learned more about the complex trauma that justice-involved individuals have experienced, we recognized the importance of helping artists involved in our programs process and share their own stories. Instead of handing participants a script to rehearse and perform, we aim to give them the pen or the paintbrush to create the art themselves.
The multi-discipline approach (writing, visual art, theatre) is intentional, as participants vary in their comfort level with each form. The classes are structured to provide time for introspective discovery, hands-on expression, and focused listening.
The program objective is to help participants build a solid foundation for healthy communication and self-awareness. We hope to provide an environment where participants speak about their experiences with confidence and authenticity, and focus on channeling stress, disappointment, and anger into positive outlets, while also working creatively and collaboratively, recognizing their own strengths and the value of stepping outside their comfort zones.
One participant's reflection on the Arts & Healing program:
“Arts & Healing has been a true Godsend for me. It definitely helped pass the time, but it is so much more than that for me. It gave me a place to be free on the inside and learn new skills. Truly the people who taught each section enjoyed teaching us. I believe it changed me and, in doing so, changed them a little bit as well. My prayer is that the class would grow and prosper. It’s so positive and refreshing. I hope to see all the instructors outside of TCSTL, and maybe we can change a little part of the world.”