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Artistic Ensemble at San Quentin Prison


North America, United States, San Francisco

The Artistic Ensemble is a troupe of 16 diverse men in prison working with 5 outside members. In their explorations to discover how they can reach the public; they also discover more about what it means to be human by connecting with each other. Their creative process is dialogic. Together they explore social inequalities with language, sound, and movement. 

It is through the collaborative effort between outside Artistic Ensemble members and incarcerated Artistic Ensemble members, that they can take constraints and boundaries and turn them into tools of liberation: art, dialogues, confrontation. Their stories cannot be properly told without the echoes of their voices, you cannot picture our world unless we are behind the camera. 

There is nothing about us, without us. 

Emile DeWeaver became a published writer, community organizer, and co-founder of while serving a 67-year-to-life sentence. California’s Governor Brown granted him clemency in 2017. Emile is interested in internalized systems of oppression and how they prevent us from building and maintaining effect models of justice. He guest lectures at social justice venues and in universities about his written work, regarding what he calls liberation models and the lying fiction of criminality. His written works comprise over 50 published articles, essays, short stories, poems, plays, and curricula. His community organizing includes education and communication campaigns to pass four senate bills and Proposition 57. His organization is the first non-profit founded and run by incarcerated people. Their aim is to take prison administration out of prison programs as a step toward prison abolition. 

Amie Dowling creates dance and theater for the stage, for film and in community settings. Her current work considers the politics and representation of mass incarceration. She facilitates performance workshops in the San Francisco Jails and is a member of the Artistic Ensemble in San Quentin Prison. Her award-winning films Well Contested Sites and A Separate Sentence, and their accompanying study guides, are collaborations with Bay Area artists, several of whom were previously incarcerated.  The films and study guides are used to initiate dialogue about mass incarceration and restorative justice practices in High School and College classrooms throughout the United States. Amie is on the Performing Arts and Social Justice faculty of the University of San Francisco. 

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