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Art Installation: The Cell

 

 

Every Arrupe Week features an art installation relating to that year's theme.  This year's is a reproduction prison cell, planned and constructed by Ms. Adrienne McLoghlin and Mr. Bhima Gaddy, both of the English Department, and a team of students.  This installation is an artistic interpretation of the prison cell belonging to the poet Etheridge Knight, who was incarcerated in the Indiana State Prison from 1961 to 1968. While imprisoned, Knight began writing poetry and published his first collection, Poems from Prison, in 1968.

The cell is inspired by, but does not directly recreate Knight’s cell. As of 2004, American Correctional Association standards, cited by the Indiana Administrative Code as the appropriate standards, dictated a prison cell size of 35 square feet per inmate. This cell is three square feet smaller than that size. It is unknown whether standards the 1960s called for the same size cells. The walls of Knight’s cell would have been made of concrete blocks rather than bars. While many of the books included in this installation were written by authors that Etheridge Knight knew and exchanged letters with in prison, many of them were not published during Knight’s time in prison, and other books by contemporary black authors have been included.  

The pictures included are not Knight’s family but do include other black authors, or the images have been created by black photographers, like Latoya Ruby Frazier. Among those pictured are: poet Amiri Baraka, Civil Rights activist Septima Clark, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, Roscoe Hall (a visual artist who also served time in prison), actor Paul Robeson, tennis and golf champ Althea Gibson, as well as many anonymous families and young Civil Rights activists.

Copies of two of Knight’s actual letters and other biographical information can be found inside the cell. We encourage you to respectfully participate with the space.

— The Arrupe Committee 2017

 

You can see more pictures of the cell's construction and the finished installation below!  To read The Idea of Ancestry, the Etheridge Knight poem which inspired this piece, click here.

  

The cell under construction.  This installation was built in four days!