San Quentin artist exhibit at San Francisco Opera

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Prison and the opera are two words you don’t hear quite often together but the two worlds have collided for a production on stage at the San Francisco Opera House this month.

The opera takes place inside a prison so real-life inmates were invited to showcase their talent at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.

On display in the lobby are many paintings and drawings that go hand in hand with the theme of the performance which is freedom, injustice, and political persecution.

“People are so capable of deep change and it’s really hard work,” Carol Newborg said. 

Carol Newborg has been helping inmates at San Quentin Prison get through that hard work and find a sense of self through art.

These paintings are a gateway to self-expression that those behind bars in a four-by-nine cell desperately need, as former inmate Isiah Daniels tells KRON4.

His piece is now hanging in the lobby at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, alongside many others that serve as portals into the minds of many who are serving time at San Quentin.

The opportunity came in tandem with the performance of Beethoven’s one and only opera titled ‘Fidelio’ which is the composer’s ode to freedom – a story about a woman who infiltrates prison walls disguised as a man to set free her wrongfully imprisoned husband. Thereby standing against injustice.

“Find some way of bringing the voices of those who are incarcerated into the very space where we are presenting this opera so people take this not only as a beautiful artistic experience but as a direct connection to community and to the voice of those who are too often unheard,” Charles Chip McNeal, with SF Opera’s Department of Diversity, Equity, and Community, said. 

Some of the artists who have since been released were able to see their work on display Wednesday night among a group of 150 community members.

Their paintings will be up through the run of the opera Fidelio which ends next Saturday, October 30.

You can catch the performance and Fidelio ticketholders can see the exhibit titled “We Shall Be Free, We Shall Find Peace” on Friday, next Tuesday, and Saturday.

Anyone can view the artwork for free here.

The art teacher says she hopes whoever comes out to see this will reflect and come to terms with the fact that the forgotten population in our prisons are people who need support too.

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January 01 2022 12:00 am