SQ Mural Artists Work to Beautify the Prison

By Wesley Eisiminger

San Quentin artists say they enjoy beautifying the prison with their talents. Their latest project is to create 16 huge mural panels for one of the prison’s dining halls. Each panel measures 7 feet high and 4 feet wide. The finished mural will be 64 feet long.

“I’ve been at San Quentin for 12 years, and there are six members of the mural crew who all work together in making this piece of art,” lead muralist Scott Mckinstry said. “Each panel demonstrates a member’s talent.”

Artist James Craft painting of one of the 16 panels

Artist James Craft painting of one of the 16 panels

Painting murals around the prison gives something to the incarcerated community that can be enjoyed, while at the same time, the artists get to show their talent, Mckinstry said.

Painting of the mural panels began in 2010. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2017.

The project is taking seven years to complete because the artists can only access their studio one day a week, according to Mckinstry.

Bruce Flower, Chris Christenson, Gus Edwards, James Norton and James Craft all used their brush strokes to create the artwork that is set to be mounted in the North Block dining hall.

The dining hall mural is one of many projects the muralists are working on, said Carol Newborg, Arts Program Manager.

One pending project is a mural for San Francisco’s Clarion Alley; a place known to most San Franciscans as an artist’s canvas. The theme is based on restorative justice and will be painted on plywood so it can be donated later to one of the city’s businesses.

Artist Bruce Fowler putting on some final touches

Artist Bruce Fowler putting on some final touches

San Quentin has a history of mural paintings that were created by incarcerated men displayed around the prison. The most famous mural was painted in the 1950s by Alfredo Santos. The mural’s panels depict scenes from California’s early history and through its golden years.

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