Many congratulations to Laura Pecenco, who has been appointed as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Program at San Diego Miramar College! As a grad student, Laura wished to do ethnographic dissertation research on artistic creation in prisons. Since CA had de-funded its prison arts programs, she convinced the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego to allow her to found her own arts program, Project PAINT. This award-winning project has improved the lives of artists in prison and their families. E.g., the first project was a collaborative mural project of landscape scenes for family photograph backdrops in visiting rooms. Laura has overseen the artistic and practical sides of Project PAINT, won state funding, and curated exhibitions at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park, the Oceanside Museum of Art, SDSU’s Love Library, the Kruglak Gallery, and other venues. Her work has garnered media attention.
Laura’s dissertation studies how the artistic process and products for prisoners are gendered, raced, and classed and analyzes how the safe space of an arts program combats organizational mandates for hypermasculinity. It also critically examines the unintended consequences of the layers of state and university IRB rules (ostensibly designed to protect individual rights of prisoners), which create Kafkaesque barriers to researchers wishing to conduct reasonable research that would support more humane prison policy. Her work has won an Honorable Mention from the ASS SPPS Section’s Robert Dentler Award for Outstanding Student Achievement. It is also the launching pad for her recent award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Laura is also an award-winning teacher and mentor. Her new position at Miramar College will allow her to continue as Executive Director of Project PAINT, lead her NEA research, and combine research and advocacy with her teaching vocation.