Educator & Artist

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DU Prison Arts Initiative


An image from Ashley’s Theatre for Social Change Course with NYU’s Prison Education Program at Wallkill Correctional Facility

An image from Ashley’s Theatre for Social Change Course with NYU’s Prison Education Program at Wallkill Correctional Facility

Background

Ashley founded and launched the DU Prison Arts Initiative (DU PAI) in 2017 with Apryl Alexander and Rachael Zafer. Ashley has been creating, teaching and working in prisons for the past eight years and completed her MA and PhD in Applied and Educational Theatre at New York University, where her research focused on Prison Theatre. Her dissertation, Toward Rehabilitation: Devised Theatre as Liminal Transformer in a Women’s Maximum-Security Prison assessed the power and complexity of creating theatre based in personal narrative as a rehabilitative tool in prison. Ashley has taught for four separate Prison Education Programs and has led arts based workshops of varying types, directed full length plays and led devised theatre projects inside with several different organizations in both New York and Colorado. Ashley’s work in prison has had various aims, including knowledge and skill building, but more prominently – Ashley is interested in the use of arts and education as a rehabilitative and transformative tool. Ashley has also taught poetry, creative writing and movement as an opportunity for expression with youth and adults in several other systems and spaces including jails, juvenile detention system, homeless shelters, half-way homes, foster homes and rehabilitation facilities. Ashley also started and co-ran a theatre company for men and women coming home from prison, in New York City, called (Re)Emergent Theatre.

Mission & Vision

DU PAI provides therapeutic, educational creative arts programming to incarcerated men and women in Colorado state prisons. DU PAI promotes access to high-quality therapeutic arts programs to incarcerated people in Colorado with the goal of empowering individuals to improve the quality of their lives and prepare to make positive changes in their communities upon release. DU PAI sees this work as part of DU’s commitment to be “a great private university dedicated to the public good.” 

Who We Are

DU PAI was formed in 2017 by a group of faculty, graduate students and staff at the University of Denver with support from the Colorado Department of Corrections. We value and seek collaborations with community-based organisations that are committed to creative arts and expression, successful re-entry, and racial, economic, and restorative justice.

An image from Ashley’s Theatre for Social Change Course with NYU’s Prison Education Program at Wallkill Correctional Facility

An image from Ashley’s Theatre for Social Change Course with NYU’s Prison Education Program at Wallkill Correctional Facility

Founders & Directors

  • Ashley Hamilton, PhD (DU CAHSS, Department of Theatre)

  • Apryl Alexander, PsyD (DU Graduate School of Professional Psychology, Forensic Psych)

  • Rachael Zafer, MPA (Consultant and Thought Partner)

    Steering Committee of DU Faculty