Art from Arizona Women’s Prison on display at Church of Apostles

Doing Time by Amber Carlson

Shirin McArthur

Church of the Apostles in Oro Valley will host an exhibit of artworks made by the residents of Arizona’s State Prison for Women. The exhibit will open on Sunday, January 27 at 4:00 p.m. with a curator talk, music and a reception.

Perryville Women’s Prison is the only Arizona state prison set aside solely for women. It is located in a dusty field just off of I-10 in Goodyear. There are 11 units in the prison ranging from maximum to minimum security as well as complexes for minors. Perryville can house over 2300 women, including a small number currently on death row.

Those who minister to the women of Perryville refer to them as ladies. Among these ladies are many talented individuals who sing, write, speak and create art. Hungry for colors beyond the daily orange and brown palette of prison life, their artwork is often surprising in its vibrancy.

Women use every scrap of material for their art, even the cardboard backs of paper tablets and shredded waste paper. They use unusual methods such as “cutting” out stencils using pushpins (because they are denied scissors), making paints from eye makeup and creating “art sponges” from sanitary pads. They are resourceful and driven to express themselves through poems, stories and paintings.

One artist wrote, “I do arts and crafts to release my anxiety and to stay out of trouble. It takes me out of my head and relaxes me.” Another wrote, “I do arts and crafts because it gives me peace of mind in a world of chaos. I’m in for life and art allows me a freedom I’ll never have again.”

Amber Carlson writes this about herself, “I am a 40-year-old mother and grandmother. I am currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for drugs. I am determined to change my life and better myself for my girls and my grandson! I love God and my family with all my heart! They are the reason I paint.”

Perryville ladies’ art expresses their diversity, their tenacity, their hopes and dreams. Church of the Apostles is honored to show their artwork. Perhaps they will inspire you as well.

The Perryville artwork is available for sale and, after a tithe to the church, all proceeds will go straight back to the artists. For information about working with the incarcerated and/or those affected by incarceration, visit the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona Prison Ministry Program at

The Perryville exhibit will be on display at Church of the Apostles, located at 12111 N La Cholla Blvd (just north of Tangerine), from January 27 through March 11, 2019.

The exhibit and opening reception are free and open to the public. Visitors are welcome to view the exhibit Mondays through Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., during regularly scheduled church events, special events and by appointment. If you wish to make an appointment, contact the church office at 520-544-9660 or [email protected]