I am a poet, literary translator (Spanish, Russian, and Quechua), folklorist, and essayist. I am the author of two books of poetry (Razor Wire received the Austin Book Award in 1986) and a book of Quechua Inca translations, Return of the Inca (1986). My degrees include an M.A. in anthropology with specialization in folklore from the University of Texas. I conducted Quechua folklore research for a year (1989/90) in Peru with a Fulbright Research grant and worked in bi-national centers and universities in Colombia with an Academic Specialist Grant from the US Information Agency (1991).
I have worked extensively as a resident artist, program administrator, and arts consultant for local, state, federal, and foreign agencies in the development of arts programs for community settings. Over the past three decades, I have worked with hundreds of schools, arts organizations, housing authorities, adult and juvenile justice institutions, faith-based organizations, healthcare venues, and municipal governments in this endeavor. In the area of arts-in-corrections alone, I have worked directly with programs in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Peru, and in more than 25 states in the U.S.
I began my corrections work as writer-in-residence with the Windham School System of the Texas Department of Corrections (TDC) from 1981 to 1984. In this capacity, I directed literary activities at 18 prisons and provided the inmate population with guest artists in the areas of creative writing, dance, music, and visual arts. I co-edited an anthology of inmate writing during that time entitled Writer’s Block. My work at TDC was the subject of the award-winning film, Lions, Parakeets and Other Prisoners (CINE Golden Eagle, Gold at the Houston International Film Festival, 1984).
From 1999 to 2002, I was Technical Assistance Provider to a federal initiative Arts Programs for Young Offenders in Detention and Corrections, a Discretionary Grant program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). From 2002 to 2004, I served as a consultant to Creative Communities, another federal initiative partnering the National Guild for Community Schools for the Arts, the Arts Endowment, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This program developed community arts centers within public housing developments in 20 U.S. cities.
I have published extensively in the area of community arts and humanities programs including two monographs for Americans for the Arts: Artists in The Community: Training Artists to Work in Alternative Settings (1996) and The Arts and Humanities as Agents for Social Change: Summary Report of the 4th International Congress of Educating Cities (1998). In 2002, I published Arts Programs for Juvenile Offenders in Detention and Corrections: A Guide to Promising Practices for OJJDP and the Arts Endowment.
I have served as a judge for the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in the first annual selection of the Coming Up Taller Awards (1998) honoring the United States’ best community arts programs for youth and as an Arts Endowment panelist for Multidisciplinary and Presenting Arts Grants (2003) and Learning in the Arts Grants (2009).
From 1999 to 2012, I had an ongoing contract with the Mississippi Arts Commission to provide technical assistance for its statewide initiative to provide arts programs to court-involved youth. I also worked from 2006 to 2011 with Class Acts Arts to develop arts-in-corrections programs for the Baltimore/Washington, DC, corridor. I cofounded the Southwest Correctional Arts Network (SCAN) in 1992, where I currently serve as vice president.
Recent presentations include Looking Back at America’s Prison Creative Writing Programs: Success and Survival at the “Arts in Prisons: their impact and potential” conference at the University of Edinburgh, February 2010; as a panelist on the Peace across Bars: Folk-Arts Programming in an Oregon Prison panel at the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society, Indiana University, October 2011; and A History of Prison Writing Programs and Their Future at the panel session “Justice, Injustice, Incarceration: Environments of the American Penitentiary” at the annual conference of the Western Literature Association in Lubbock, TX, in November 2012.
My publications on arts and corrections are substantial, spanning three decades. The most notable recent publications are “Arts and Juvenile Justice” in Best Practices in Mental Health (Winter 2009); “Community Arts Behind Walls,” in CultureWork, University of Oregon (April 2011); and “Arts in Corrections” in Animating Democracy (2011).