Prison Education Program Debuts Art Exhibit at the Philadelphia Ethical Society

St. Davids, PA: Eastern University’s Prison Education program (PEP) will debut “Celebrating Higher Education Behind Bars” – an art installation designed to foster community dialogue about the “college-in-prison” experience and highlight the ongoing partnership between SCI-Chester and PEP. 

The exhibit will travel to the Philadelphia Ethical Society from January 22 - 27, 2023 and then to Eastern University from January 29 - February 4, 2023.

"Celebrating Higher Education Behind Bars” is a multimedia art installation organized by Eastern University’s Prison Education Program (PEP) featuring original artwork and poetry by incarcerated students who were enrolled in a PEP course on creativity and artistic expression last summer at SCI-Chester in Chester, PA. This course, co-taught by Eastern University professor Stephen Welsh and Tieshka Smith, a Philadelphia-based photographer, established space for PEP students to create powerful visual art and poetry that connects them to the universal human need for self-expression. 

"The raw power of the visual art and poetry that our students created is evident the moment viewers step in the room, which in itself will be a recreation of the very classroom at SCI-Chester in which the class was taught,” shares Smith. “The exhibit is a testament to PEP's ability to cultivate a learning community where students feel empowered and supported to express themselves in such a compelling and honest way. It is my hope that the impact of this project, and by extension, PEP,  lasts well beyond the two week period.”

The exhibit offers the public a unique opportunity to reflect on the ways in which this body of art  provides a window into the realities of incarceration and the ways in which students have explored themes of love, loss, faith and resilience through the program. 

The exhibit is a testimony to our students’ growth during their first semester,” shares Dr. John Fantuzzo, Interim Director of the Prison Education Program. “Students studied art history and were invited to become fellow artists. As Chris Wilson shares in The Master Plan, a book our students read before the course began, 'It’s about being the artist, not just admiring the view.' Wilson uses art as a metaphor for life. This exhibit follows suit, highlighting our students’ existential agency during their first semester of college.”

“Celebrating Higher Education Behind Bars” at the Philadelphia Ethical Society 

The “Celebrating Higher Education Behind Bars” exhibit will be on view at the Philadelphia Ethical Society (1906 Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia PA 19103) from January 22-27, 2023. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023 from 4-6pm:
The public is invited to attend an opening reception, featuring remarks by Hugh Taft-Morales, Leader of the Baltimore Ethical Society and the Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 from 6-8pm:
The public is invited to a film screening of “Teaching Behind Bars: Lessons from Returning Citizens," immediately followed by a panel discussion featuring John Pace, Kempis "Ghani" Songster and Faheem Wyatt.

Friday, January 27, 2023 from 6-8pm:
The public is invited to attend a spoken word event hosted by Christopher "KP" Brown, a Philadelphia-based book publisher, event organizer, music and spoken word poetry event host, and performance poet. He is the founder of Pecola Breedlove & The Freedom Party, a West Philly-based open mic poetry event that created a platform for poets both local and national for five years. Poetry written by PEP students will be performed by Brown, along with Philadelphia-based poets Paul Buchanan, Lee Horton, Kirwyn Sutherland, and David Buckley, along with youth fellows from the Youth Art & Self Empowerment Project.  

“Celebrating Higher Education Behind Bars” at Eastern University  

January 29 - February 4, 2023:
The “Celebrating Higher Education Behind Bars” exhibit will be on view at Eastern University’s Warmer Library on the main campus in St. Davids, PA from January 29 - February 4, 2023.  The press is invited to an advance viewing of the installation on the 29th from 2-3pm, and the public is invited to attend an opening reception on the 29th from 3-5pm. 

Additional Event Details & Contact Info
To learn more about opportunities to view the exhibit, visit the Philadelphia Ethical Society Facebook Event page or Eastern University’s Facebook Event page.

Organizational Information

About The Philadelphia Ethical Society
The Philadelphia Ethical Society is a humanist congregation dedicated to honoring the worth and dignity of every human being, cultivating character, nurturing ethical relationships and caring networks, building community capacity and social justice. For more information, visit

About Eastern University’s Prison Education Program
Eastern University’s Prison Education Program seeks to provide transformative education for our neighbors who are incarcerated and returning from incarceration, giving them better opportunities and a solid foundation of faith, reason, and justice to succeed upon reentry into society. Learn more at

About Eastern University
Eastern University is a Christian university enrolling approximately 5,700 students in its undergraduate, graduate, and seminary programs. The university’s main campus is located in St. Davids, PA, with additional locations in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and online. Eastern’s core values of faith, reason, and justice are woven into all of its educational programs. For more information visit or contact Kelly Goddard, Associate Vice President for Marketing, Enrollment & Communications: