Pat Maloney dedicated 40 years of his life to teaching and mentoring incarcerated artists at San Quentin State Prison before his retirement in 2019.
Maloney was one of the founders of San Quentin’s Arts in Corrections program, a creative co-op sponsored by the nonprofit William James Association, a San Quentin arts benefactor since 1977.
Incarcerated artists who had the privilege of working with Maloney describe him as very caring and a great listener who liked to create art inspired by holistic aboriginal themes — mind, body and nature. “Maloney loved his job so much that he worked for a decade without pay,” said incarcerated journalist Juan Haines who interviewed Maloney in 2019.
Maloney regrettably passed away not long after he retired, leaving behind a legacy of imagination and originality that lives on behind these walls, especially in the Arts in Corrections program.
The program has seen many incredible artists come and go over the years, and each has left his mark in some way. Some masterpieces created by the prison’s artists have even been showcased at museums and generated great interest from Smithsonian historians.
In 2014, visitors to the notorious Alcatraz Island were able to view an exhibit displaying San Quentin artists. The exhibit was displayed from February through August of that year. It was showcased to help break negative connotations associated with people in prison. It was an opportunity to merge the old with the new and show the soul and character of the prisoners. Curators believed it would allow Alcatraz’s visitors to connect with the incarcerated in a creative way. More events like this are said to be in the works in hopes of reviving community interest and once again showcasing drawings, paintings, theatrical, and even print works.
Positive relationships are created through Arts in Corrections, allowing people to bridge the gap between cultural and sociological differences. Art improves critical thinking skills and greatly improves the mental and physical well-being of people, which makes it a great rehabilitative outlet for the incarcerated.
The San Quentin prison arts exhibit was presented through a partnership with the National Park Services and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Incarcerated people created pieces to give back to the society where they caused harm, proof that it is not only the artists themselves who benefit from their ability to create, but also the communities where amends most desperately need to be made.