The Cal State San Bernardino Community-based Art (CBA) initiative has been awarded a three-year contract with the California Arts Council. The contract’s funding of more than $1.6 million will allow CBA to significantly increase its programming inside California state prisons, expanding its partnerships with other CSU campuses and growing jobs in the region. 

The contract is made possible through Arts in Corrections (AIC), which is an initiative of the California Arts Council and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. CSUSB is the only institution of higher learning to receive AIC funding.

“I am honored to lead this incredible collaborative project and look forward to this new phase together with our strong team of students, alumni and volunteers,” said Annie Buckley, associate professor of visual studies in the Department of Art. “Facilitating arts programming in correctional institutions has been an incredibly rewarding experience that offers us the opportunity to support authentic positive change and foster transformation through the arts.”

Buckley founded CBA in 2013 in collaboration with students and alumni, with the goal of expanding access to art in the region. CBA is an approach to making, teaching and learning art that directly engages participants through collaboration and mutual learning.

The Prison Arts Collective (PAC) is a project of CBA that is dedicated to facilitating art in local prisons and supporting further collaborations between the state university and prison systems. PAC offers a vibrant and effective approach to rehabilitation through visual arts and creative writing, integrating principles of restorative justice through a rich and varied approach to the creative process that includes art appreciation, art making and reflection.

Teaching teams — comprised of students, alumni, faculty and volunteers — co-create multidisciplinary art curricula for classes accommodating up to 120 participants, integrating art and artists from diverse backgrounds and time periods. Incarcerated participants express themselves through the arts while also gaining life skills such as communication, collaboration, patience, problem-solving and confidence. Programming will also include arts facilitator training, which provides intensive teacher training courses to incarcerated participants and mentoring them to teach peer-led art classes.

“I truly want to thank all of the instructors for coming to a prison setting to help us prisoners,” said one participant. “Yes, we all made a mistake to come here but we’re not bad ... your staff treated us with respect and kindness and I will never forget that.”   

CBA/PAC currently facilitates weekly arts programming in four California state prisons and intensive arts facilitator trainings in two additional prisons. The new California Arts Council contract will allow CBA/PAC to expand its arts programming to six additional correctional institutions, for a total of 12, providing support to colleagues at Fresno State to create a chapter of the work in the region while continuing its partnership with colleagues and students at CSU Northridge for the program at California State Prison, Los Angeles County.

“Community-based Art has been a tremendous asset to the program inventory,” said Ronnie Shupe, community resource manager at the California Institution for Women.

CBA receives internal funding from the CSUSB Office of Community Engagement, the Office of Student Research, Office of Graduate Studies and the Career Center. In addition, the PAC project has previously received internal grants from CSUSB and a one-year contract with the California Arts Council for Arts for an Arts in Corrections Demonstration Project, and currently has grants in progress from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Innovative Grant program and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

“We are grateful to the California Arts Council and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for supporting our uniquely university-based Arts in Corrections model,” said Buckley. “On campus, we are fortunate to work with Rachel Weiss of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and to have the support of President Tomás D. Morales, Dean Terry Ballman and art department chair Matthew Poole for this exciting community-based initiative.”

In addition to its support for incarcerated men and women, CBA/PAC creates significant learning experiences for CSUSB students and alumni through quarterly internships, offering many alumni their first meaningful job in the art world after graduation.

As Danielle Yellen, the new CBA/PAC outreach coordinator, explained, “I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for CBA/PAC. Not only does this program create amazing jobs for those of us who have graduated, but this program has truly changed my life. It really has opened up my eyes to how powerful art can be for the community and for an individual in need.”

For more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-5007 and visit

Two works from the Prison Arts Collective 

E. Gonzalez, Separation Anxiety, acrylic,

E. Gonzalez, 'Separation Anxiety.' 

J. Tercero, Light in the Dark,

J. Tercero, 'Light in the Dark.'