UK first in Buxton showcases art from inside Death Row

San Quentin Prison

An exhibition of original art and poetry by prisoners currently on Death Row at San Quentin Prison, California is currently on show at The Green Man Gallery in Buxton.  Brough to Buxton by artist, Nicola White, and prisoners’ penfriend, Viv Doyle, this is the first UK exhibition of the work outside London.

Created by prisoners as part of the ArtReach programme the purpose of which is to provide a platform for artists on San Quentin’s death row to exhibit their art and creativity, both online and in a variety of exhibition venues and talks. You can read more about the project at

About the ArtReach programme

The ArtReach programme believes that art and poetry ‘has the power and ability ​to transform thinking, consciousness, behaviour and lives. In doing so, it also helps to connect and engage these artists with the outside world. It also aims to humanise the people incarcerated on death row, utilising art as a vehicle to raise awareness, and to generate debate and discussion about capital punishment.’

Over the past two years, ArtReach has put on seven exhibitions in the UK and one in California, not far from San Quentin.

The exhibition here in Buxton, painted and penned from 10ft x 4ft x 7ft cells on death row aims to humanise the prisoners who have been sentenced to death and to generate debate and discussion about capital punishment.

Most of the prisoners are self-trained and have discovered their talent for creativity during their imprisonment. Artwork and writing is created in their cells, in solitary confinement – not in social areas.

San Quentin Prison

The art work is for sale

10% of the proceeds will go to a charity supported by the prisoners which is a small way in which they can give something back to society and make reparation from their crimes. The rest will go to the artists themselves to enable them to buy more art materials and to spend on the prison canteen to supplement a fairly meagre diet. Prices are extremely reasonable and also negotiable. Payment terms are also available – ask a member of staff inside the gallery for more information and prices of individual

How did this exhibition come to arrive in Buxton?

Buxton writer Viv Doyle began writing to Luis Maciel, a prisoner on death row at San Quentin prison via Lifelines – an organisation which arranges pen-friends for prisoners on death row in the United States. Over the years they communicated regularly and Luis explained how many of the inmates would use creative expression to escape their present circumstances. Following 16 years correspondence, Viv finally visited Luis at the prison earlier this year.

Through Lifelines, Viv then connected with London based artist Nicola White – who has been working with the prisoners at San Quentin since 2015, helping them to find a platform to exhibit their work; together Viv and Nicola decided to arrange an exhibition of the prisoners’ work in Buxton.

San Quentin Prison
Nicola White (L) & Viv Doyle (R) at the exhibition at The Green Man Gallery.

Nicola said, “These prisoners have been discarded and are considered of no use to society, thrown away, forgotten about, and I try to give them another chance, to show them that from a very dark place, some light can get out.” – Nicola White.

San Quentin Prison
A replica model of one of the prison cells at San Quentin Prison, made by one of the prisoners for the exhibition (left). Visitors can listen to poetry read by prisoners (right).

San Quentin Prison

What immediately strikes you about this exhibition is the sheer talent and skills of the artists who contributed to this project and the beauty of some of the work in the collection. This may be the gallery’s most surprising exhibition in the 6 years it’s been open and upon closer inspection and learning more about the prisoners, it’s obvious that some of the work you see has inevitably been influenced by their many years of incarceration. But there is immense colour, emotion, and life in many of the works and as a visitor it feels like a brief window into the mind of the prisoners.

Information about each artist is given, some giving details about their passions, their feelings and emotions and even their crimes. Some don’t mention their crimes at all. The exhibition is thought provoking to say the least and definitely worth a visit.

The exhibition will run until the 25th September 2018 at The Green Man Gallery and entry is free.

Opening times are: Monday 10.30am – 1.30pm, Tuesday & Wednesday 10.30am – 4.30pm, Thursday CLOSED, Friday & Saturday 10.30am – 4.30pm and Sunday 10.30am – 2.30pm.

The Green Man Gallery, Hardwick Hall, Hardwick Square South, SK17 6PY Buxton

Tel: 01298 937375

Facebook: @TheGreenManGallery

Twitter: @GreenManArt 

Did You Enjoy This?

You might like our regular newsletter. We put all the best events, cultural highlights and offers from Buxton and the Peak District in your inbox every fortnight.

This information will only be used to send you this newsletter. It is stored in Mailchimp.