Since 1994, ArtSpring has offered specifically designed interdisciplinary arts-based workshops in female prisons and in juvenile facilities through its two principal on-going programs: Inside Out and Breaking Free. Our programs serve women and girls representing a diverse ethnic, age and racial demographic who have an overwhelming number of needs that are not being met adequately by community resources. Because these populations are incarcerated, victimized, and often forgotten, our programs encourage a process of personal reflection: self-awareness, acceptance, commitment, tolerance and personal choice-making that provide participants better tools for survival inside and upon their release.

Inside Out and Breaking Free are based on a unique interdisciplinary curriculum developed by Leslie Neal, the Artistic Director and Founder of ArtSpring, who is also an Associate Professor of Dance at Florida International University. The programs meet weekly and extend over a three-month period. Original work by the participants that is explored in the workshop becomes the material for the creation and production of live presentations. Each program culminates in a performance/ presentation for facility staff, inmates and, when approved, invited guests from the outside community. These interdisciplinary arts programs incorporate movement, theatre games, writing, drawing, music, storytelling and performance as tools for personal development. ArtSpring listens to the needs of the communities we serve, and other program initiatives are often implemented to address those needs.

Since 1996, ArtSpring has continually conducted assessments to determine the impact on program participants, distributing pre and post evaluation materials to gather feedback for program development and improvement. Women who participated in ArtSpring programs reported indicators consistent with high self-efficacy.

The objectives of all of ArtSpring’s programs are to:

  • Offer arts based workshops to a diverse group of people within a community to promote respect, cooperation and cultural understanding

  • Explore issues of self-esteem and stimulate personal responsibility through the creative process

  • Present opportunities for participant’s creative work to be shared that can create a bridge of interaction, visibility, engagement and exchange between isolated communities

  • Provide program participants with opportunities to learn, through the arts, behavioral and social skills that will ultimately aid them in their life transitions


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ArtSpring believes in creating alliances and partnerships with other agencies and organizations in order to work together to provide qualitative arts programs and to serve the needs of institutionalized women and girls in our community. ArtSpring continues to establish strong relations with local agencies and organizations who are interested in offering our arts-based programming. We are currently partnered with the following:

  • Belafonte TACOLCY Center

  • Florida Department of Corrections

  • Florida Department of Juvenile Justice

  • The Service Network for Children of Inmates

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Delilah, Jefferson Correctional Institution, Inside Out Participant 1997


“I pledge my continued commitment and that of my staff, to making your volunteer experience the best it can be. We appreciate the work ArtSpring has done in our institutions for the past decade. Grant funded projects like yours allow us to “do more with less.” I support inmate programs and appreciate your long standing commitment to the Florida Department of Corrections.”

Laura E. Bedard, Ph.D., Deputy Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, Aug. 25, 2005




“And in the midst of all the darkness, a light has been showered upon us,
Reminding us that there are some who care, love, remember.
Some who are more than willing to help, who don’t judge us by our past,
But who we are…today.
They come from the outside in and give from the inside out.
They bring smiles, hugs, love, and support.
They give freely, and in this one true act of devotion,
They have shown us we are not alone.
They bring to life our talent, show us that we have so much to offer society.
And that though we’ve made mistakes,
Our lives are not over, just merely beginning.”

Sarah, Homestead Correctional Institution, Inside Out Participant 2004



“I believe this type of workshop is an essential tool in self-awareness, which I think is the key to initiating any sort of change in one’s being. I had not a clue to my issues before the tragedy that brought me to prison. I was in enormous pain and had intense feelings of hopelessness. Through this workshop I’ve acquired tools that have enabled me to bring out that which has been within me all along; courage, trust, love, increased confidence, higher self-esteem, and the ability to follow through in making a responsible commitment….”

Deborah, Broward Correctional Institution, Inside Out Participant 1996




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