Arts-Based Workshops

Valuing Creative Voices

Through creative writing, theatre and other arts workshops, we build collaborative communities that serve as spaces for therapeutic healing and innovative thinking. Our workshops range from six to 40 sessions across 11 facilities within the Colorado Department of Corrections: Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, Denver Women's Correctional Facility, Sterling Correctional Facility, Limon Correctional Facility, Buena Vista Correctional Facility, Four Mile Correctional Facility, Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, Fremont Correctional Facility, La Vista Correctional Facility, Colorado State Penitentiary and Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility.

Our Creative Work

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Arts throughout all of the history of humanity have given us the human experience in a way that can be felt. We can feel each other's emotions that way. And I think through bringing that into prison it's allowing other people to heal who have never had an opportunity to.

DU PAI Incarcerated Participant
  • 2021 COVID-19 Response/Virtual Offerings

    Learning to See through Drawing

    Learning to See Through Drawing offers participants the opportunity to learn or build upon basic drawing skills to explore how the activity of drawing both changes how we see the world and offers opportunities for self-expression. This course is available to those with minimal drawing experience or extensive drawing experienceall are welcome to explore these drawing techniques and reflective processes.

    Each week, participants are introduced to new drawing concepts, including contour lines, line weight, value, contrast, gradation, perspective, color theory and more. Students explore still-life subjects, interiors, portraiture and abstraction, and they are guided through this process via video lectures and information provided in course packets. Additionally, each week participants are asked to reflect on their process of drawing and creation through prompted journaling. Participants are also asked to explore the topics in this class further by completing readings and assignments.

    This course is meant to provide space for exploration of the self and the students' surroundings in a way that feels comfortable. Assignments and reflections can be taken literally or figuratively, but all ask participants to engage in focused and deep-seeing self-reflection and self-expression. This course supports students in developing and practicing self-awareness, emotional expression, creativity and hands-on artistic skills.

    A mural of Learning to See Through Drawing exercises were showcased at the DU Community Commons Gallery in September 2021.

  • 2021 COVID-19 Response/Virtual Offerings

    Tell It Slant

    The Tell It Slant: Reading & Writing Creative Nonfiction workshop offers an exploration of creative nonfiction, one of the fastest-growing forms of writing in literature. Creative nonfiction can be an essay, a journal article, a research paper, a memoir, a recipe or a poem; it can be personal or not, or it can be any or all of these combined.

    Because creative writing involves both creativity and scholarship, coursework includes critical analysis of student and published writing; forming aesthetic judgments about creative nonfiction; writing and revising creative nonfiction; form and technique in creative nonfiction; and responding to the creative work of classmates in a writing community.

    Tell It Slant will support participants in developing critical life skills such as reading and analyzing complex texts, putting their intuitive and affective responses to creative texts into language, writing critically and creatively, committing to a long-term goal and solving problems independently.

    The DU Prison Arts Initiative works closely with the University of Denver’s college of continuing and professional studies, University College, to explore possibilities for collaboration. Within University College, the Center for Professional Development (CPD) is designed to help lifelong learners develop new skills and refresh existing proficiencies so students can advance their careers. DU PAI is pleased to announce that for the first time, the course Tell It Slant: Reading & Writing Creative Nonfiction will be eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Continuing Education Units are transcripted, non-credit bearing units that we hope to continue to offer to participants for culmination in a professional certificate signed by the dean of University College. CEUs help participants provide evidence of learning for college and employment applications. We’re inspired to be working with these partners at DU that are passionate about making learning accessible to all, and hope our collaboration with University College and the Center for Professional Development continues to expand and deepen.

  • 2020 COVID-19 Response/Virtual Offerings

    Imagining Worlds

    This workshop offers a brief survey of dramatic literature (plays), including modern 20th century plays and contemporary 21st century plays. Participants are asked to respond creatively to each of these readings, engaging their senses and intuition. They are given an introduction to the building blocks of theatre, play reading and playwriting so that they may build a foundation of knowledge for how to critically read and respond to plays. We hope students will be able to apply these concepts to their own creative work, beyond the scope of dramatic literature.

    This course also supports participants in developing critical life skills such as reading and analyzing complex texts, putting their intuitive and affective responses to creative texts into language, writing critically and creatively, committing to a long-term goal, and solving problems independently.

    Imagining Worlds culminates with a selection of the students' original plays printed in an anthology that will be gifted to them and made available to the public, as well as featured in DU PAI's fall virtual showcase.

  • Sterling Correctional Facility

    If Light Closed Its Eyes; With(in); Reverberations

    Incarcerated students are the driving force behind our interview-based theatre play, "If Light Closed Its Eyes"; our podcast, "With(in)"; and the literary magazine, "Reverberations."

  • Limon Correctional Facility

    Production of Antigone; The Right to Speak: Finding Your True Voice

    Limon's production of the classic tragedy, "Antigone," includes an in-house band. The Right to Speak: Finding Your True Voice is a 12-week course. Both Limon offerings are led and taught by Julie Rada.

  • Denver Women's Correctional Facility

    The Building Blocks of Musical Theatre

    In this 12-week course, students explore music, singing, movement and acting techniques.

  • Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center

    Collective Care: Finding Freedom & Joy through Movement

    Students embrace stories as blueprints for choreography, to move stories through their bodies, in this 12-week course.

  • La Vista Correctional Facility

    Universe Within; Introduction to Art Making Practices

    Universe Within is a devised theatre and playwriting project based on our Arts in Society grant "Sojourn: The Search." Intro to Art Making Practices is a 12-week course geared towards exploring the skills, concepts and actions of artistic activity and practices.

  • Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility

    Exploring Improvisation

    In this 12-week workshop, students learn about various ways of improvising character, relationships, space, sound, movement and tone.

  • Four Mile Correctional Facility

    Introduction to Art Making Practices

    This course is geared towards exploring the skills, concepts and actions of artistic activity and practices.

  • Fremont Correctional Facility

    The Inside Report; Introduction to Journalism

    "The Inside Report" is our Colorado Department of Corrections statewide newspaper. In Intro to Journalism, students learn about the basics of journalism and newsroom operations.

  • Buena Vista Correctional Facility

    To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme: Questioning & Writing Poetry

    Students read a range of poetic styles and genres and learn techniques for crafting their own original poems.

  • Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility

    Introduction to Theatre Practices

    This 12-week course cultivates curiosity through games, improvisation and movement exercises that are honest, fun, thoughtful and invigorating.

  • Colorado State Penitentiary

    Introduction to Theatre Practices

    This 12-week course cultivates curiosity through games, improvisation and movement exercises that are honest, fun, thoughtful and invigorating.

Past Creative Projects

  • Sterling Correctional Facility
    • Creating Action through Words and Movement (Fall 2019)
    • Ensemble Theatre Workshop (Winter-Summer 2019)
    • Play Production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (Winter-Summer 2019)
    • The History of Photography Workshop (Winter-Summer 2019)
  • Limon Correctional Facility
    • Ensemble Theatre (Fall 2019)
  • Denver Women's Correctional Facility
    • Let the Lit Move You: Movement & Literature (Winter 2020)
    • Production of "A Christmas Carol" (Fall 2019)
    • Arts and Spirituality Workshop (Winter-Summer 2019)
    • Short Play Workshop (Winter-Summer 2019)
    • Production of "A Christmas Carol" (Winter-Summer 2019)
    • Ensemble Theatre (Summer-Fall 2018)
  • Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center
    • Unpacking Story: Playwriting & Scene Study (Winter 2020)
    • Creating Action Through Words and Movement (Fall 2019)
    • Movement and Creative Writing (Winter-Summer 2019)
    • Theatre Devising Workshop (Winter-Summer 2019)
    • Playwriting Workshop (Winter-Spring 2018)
  • La Vista Correctional Facility
    • Ensemble Theatre (Winter 2020)
    • Writing the Breath (Fall 2019)
  • Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility
    • Portable Magic: A Book Discussion Workshop (Winter 2020)
    • Ensemble Theatre (Fall 2019)
  • Four Mile Correctional Facility
    • Ensemble Theatre (Winter 2020)
    • Portable Magic: A Book Discussion Workshop (Fall 2019)
  • Fremont Correctional Facility
    • Writing the Breath (Winter 2020)
    • Improvisation Lab (Fall 2019)
  • Buena Vista Correctional Facility
    • Restorative Justice & Performance Inside Out College Course (Spring 2021)
    • Ensemble Theatre (Fall 2019)
  • Colorado Correctional Center (Camp George West)
    • Family Events (Fall 2019)
    • Creative Writing Workshop (Winter-Summer 2019)
    • Re-Entry through Theatre (Winter-Summer 2019)
    • Non-Fiction Writing (Winter-Summer 2019)
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