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Prison Performing Arts

Go ahead, make the requisite joke about the "captive audience." Then acknowledge the fact that prison arts and education programs cut recividism rates. And that nevertheless, state and federal governments keep cutting funding for arts and education in prisons. Fourteen years ago, Agnes Wilcox began an arts-outreach program to St. Louis prisons and juvenile-detention facilities. Nowadays, as artistic director of Prison Performing Arts, she works with at least five institutions statewide, bringing in a variety of performing artists and providing classes and performance opportunities. Last year at Bowling Green, male inmates performed The Gospel at Colonus, while women in Vandalia undertook Act One of Macbeth. Wilcox, meanwhile, forges ahead, working on an after-school program for teens. Though all her grant applications for the new program have so far been unsuccessful, Wilcox shrugs and says, "We'll keep applying. It needs to happen. It will happen." To contact Prison Performing Arts, address mail to 630 Trinity Avenue, University City, MO 63130, call 314-727-5355 or visit www.prisonartsstl.org. Donations are tax-deductible.

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