ASU criminology freshmen showcase inmate art at First Friday exhibit

May 2, 2017

Emma Richburg never thought she’d be putting on an art show as a freshman criminology and criminal justice major. But she is helping put up drawings, paintings and other items for display at Unexpected Art Studio, a former warehouse on Polk Street located between Grand Ave and 7th Avenue. The works of art will be sold at the May 5 First Friday — the hip art, entertainment and food event that draws thousands of people to Roosevelt Row and Grand Ave in downtown Phoenix each month.

But this art show will be different from the dozens of other exhibits First Friday patrons will encounter. This art was done by inmates serving time in the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence. The exhibit is called "(Ink)arcerated: Creativity within Confinement."  Criminology freshmen sponsoring an inmate art show Nine freshmen criminology and criminal justice students are sponsoring an inmate art show. Proceeds benefit charities that help abused women and children and at-risk kids. Download Full Image

“We're going to try our best to display it in a very respectful and hopefully creative way where people will see it in a different manner and change their current mindset," Richburg said.

The mindset that Richburg is referring to is one in which people are locked up and forgotten.

“People think that once someone's put away the problem is stopped, that the issue is done,” she said. “People don't understand that the same person you're putting into a very hard system is going to come out into your community.

And that's what we're trying to change. We want to better them so when they come out and they have been rehabilitated and they will actually better the community that you, your family and everyone else living there.”

Richburg and her classmates are learning about incarceration as part of a new type of ASU course called Promod, which stands for “project-based modular learning.” There is no textbook, no mid-terms. Instead, freshmen learn about a particular community problem by becoming immersed in the topic and work as a team on a solution. In this case, at art exhibit.

Kevin Wright, an assistant professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, teaches ASU 140 “Prisons: Getting Out and Staying Out.” He took the nine students in the class on a tour of a state prison in Florence where they learned about what programs are offered inmates.

“We talked to the warden and we got to actually walk into a classroom of prisoners who were learning about drawing from a teacher,” Richburg said. “And there are other programs that allow prisoners to express their feelings in ways other than violence.”

Dalmatian watching boy eat watermen

Art from the "(Ink)arcerated: Creativity within Confinement" exhibit.

“I knew when I was signing up for this class that we would have a field trip to the prison but I had no idea what that all entailed and that was kind of a reason we chose to do this,” student Madysen Genzmer said. “But once I actually experienced this class I realized that it's literally a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Genzmer has since learned about the prison crisis in America. There are 1.5 million men and women in prison and 95 percent of them will be released. Yet, most go on to commit new crimes. A national study of 400,000 inmates released from prison found that within a three-year period two-thirds of them had been rearrested.

“A person only gets punished for so long and then they return to our communities,” Genzmer said. “And if they're not rehabilitated they're going to go right back into the same cycle and they're going to commit the crime again. So we need to rehabilitate and not just lock up and forget about them.”

Students created teams to work on various aspects of the show, including fundraising to pay for it. A crowdsource funding campaign raised more than $3,100 to rent the exhibit space and buy food for guests.

Genzmer says the art exhibit will allow students the opportunity to talk about the importance of programs that will help inmates once they’re released. But the show will do more than that. Students are selling the artwork. A small portion will pay for the supplies used to make the art, but all other proceeds will benefit the Pinal County Family Advocacy Center and Children First Leadership Academy.

“All the money that we're raising at the art show is going to two organizations, one for abused mothers and children and another for impoverished and homeless kids,” Genzmer said. 

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


‘Never too late’: ASU student earns degree, turns 50 same week

May 2, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

Hailing from Salcha, Alaska, 40 miles south of Fairbanks (“very cold!” she says), Karol Pomplin is currently living in New Iberia, Louisiana, about two hours west of New Orleans (“very Cajun!”). Moving frequently with her family (her husband works in the oil industry), Pomplin thought she’d have to put off completing her college degree indefinitely. Karol Pomplin / Courtesy photo Graduating ASU student Karol Pomplin has advice for those struggling to complete a degree: "When you take time away from school, it’s not always easy to find your way back, but it’s never too late. I am graduating from college and turning 50 within the same week. I often tell my son, who is currently serving in the military, as well as my fellow baristas, always accept every opportunity to learn and further your education." Download Full Image

Then she heard about Starbucks’ partnership with Arizona State University, and applied to Starbucks as a barista. Her application to ASU soon followed.

For the past two years, when not serving up Frappuccinos, Pomplin has been immersed in reading and writing for her online bachelor's in English. Among her favorite literary works? Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” “My reading tastes tend to lean toward the macabre,” she says. After she graduates this spring, Pomplin looks forward to “tackling” some Toni Morrison titles as well.

We caught up with her to find out what else is on the horizon.

Question: What was your "aha" moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

Answer: When I was in high school, and teachers would ask about my life goals, I had a stock answer. I wanted to be a writer. I nearly finished college in my early twenties, but life happened. I detoured through parenthood, but my dream of finishing college persisted. Today, my stock answer is the same.

I want to be a writer.

Q: What's something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: Learning a foreign language online is challenging. The classes were very time-consuming and demanding, but I’m grateful for this experience. Even after two years of study in Spanish, I am far from fluent. However, it provided me with an enriched appreciation for how difficult it must be for those living in a country that does not speak their first language. I had always considered myself sensitive to this issue, but had no way to grasp the level of difficulty in learning a second language.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: We move a fair amount due to my husband’s career. It made it difficult to establish residency in one state and reside there long enough to finish. I heard of the college achievement plant through Starbucks and applied as a barista. I’m very thankful. I consider the opportunity to finish college a true blessing.

Q: What's the best piece of advice you'd give to those still in school?

A: Never give up and try not to delay. When you take time away from school, it’s not always easy to find your way back, but it’s never too late. I am graduating from college and turning 50 within the same week. I often tell my son, who is currently serving in the military, as well as my fellow baristas, always accept every opportunity to learn and further your education.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I’m an online student and have never actually been on campus. I did drive through Arizona once when I was 15, does that count?

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: This fall, I plan to take a few classes pertaining to editing. Learning more about this skill will help to improve my own writing. I would also like help other writers achieve their dreams to see their work published. I also hope to volunteer to help tutor students working to obtain their GED.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: It’s a difficult choice. As a parent, I always want to fix everything. However, base needs of survival would take priority for me. Poverty and hunger are such critical issues in our world today. No one should ever have to go without a meal. It’s such a basic need that most of take for granted.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

senior marking & communications specialist, Department of English