Art 180’s Atlas Gallery has collaborated with 10 teens who were previously incarcerated at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center to present the “My Reality” virtual jail cell exhibit.

Art 180's Virtual Jail Cell for Teens

Art 180’s Virtual Jail Cell for Teens

With its virtual reality element, the exhibit takes visitors to a virtual jail cell experience and lets them see incarceration through the eyes of jailed teens.

Art 180’s “My Reality” Exhibit: Virtual Jail Cell Experience

A blend of art and technology, the exhibit features arts, paintings, photography and poetry, as well as audio and video.

Visitors enter a room the size of a jail cell, sit on a metal cot, wear virtual reality goggles and experience the prison life. Walls of the exhibit are filled with the words and stories of incarcerated youths.

Prison statistics also adorn the exhibit walls.

One statistic from the Legal Aid Justice Center shows that Virginia spends $171,000 to imprison one kid for a year against $14,000 to send one student to school in Richmond.

Another data shows that the state sends more students to law enforcement than any US state.

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Art 180’s Exhibit: Collaboration Between Artists & Formerly Imprisoned Teens

Teens in Art 180's Virtual Jail Cell

Teens in Art 180’s Virtual Jail Cell

Art 180’s exhibit was made possible through the efforts of artist Mark Strandquist.

Aside from the Richmond youth, he also enlisted the help of other artists and mentors, such as Brooklyn-based virtual reality studio, Scenic, to create the jail experience.

Strandquist commented:

“We’re trying to create a space that amplifies these teens’ voices about a system that isn’t working for any of us. A lot of the work is trying to confront stereotypes. When you hear the word ‘criminal,’ we want to flip that on its head. We want to explore what could keep individuals from ending up in the system in the first place.”

Teens will dress and work as prison guards during the Art 180 virtual jail cell tour.

Teens will dress and work as prison guards during the Art 180 virtual jail cell tour.

Art 180’s Exhibit Tackles the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The exhibit also explores school-to-prison pipeline — a national trend where kids are sent from public schools into the juvenile justice system, and sometimes, adult prisons..

It will also be used to help train new Richmond police recruits. Strandquist added:

“We’re hoping this exhibit can help retrain people who engage with youth, who can better support them before they end up in the system.”

The exhibit re-opens Friday, November 3 featuring “Chapter Two” of the virtual reality prison experience. It first opened in October.

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This Friday, teens will be dressed as correctional officers, process visitors and lead them down the school-to-prison pipeline. Those interested have until November 17 to take part in the exhibit at Richmond Ward.

After the exhibit concludes, it will go on tour across the state of Virginia.

Melanie Macinas holds a BS degree in Computer Science. She found her passion for writing when she took a content writing position for a BPO company. In 2011, she started her freelancing career as a writer and since then has successfully completed several writing projects for US/UK clients. She now writes news stories for prison loved ones on the Prison Rideshare Network.