Quest: A Collection, Organized By Rhea Fontaine • Remembrance Of Things Past: Prison Arts Project • I WORK WHILE YOU SLEEP: Jim Christensen at NIAD Art Center from February 3-22 //

Artists are seekers and Rhea Fontaine’s life has been devoted to witnessing and sharing their visions. Many of the pieces featured in “Quest: A Collection” are selected from her personal collection, acting as sites or vehicles for reverence and self-reflection. Common themes surrounding nature, identity, rebirth and spiritual crossroads emerge.

The works in the show also explore the undefined spaces between worlds: between the head and the heart, the tangible and intangible, and perhaps, between the singularity of one and the universality of oneness. Included in the exhibition are: Radcliffe Bailey, Mary Lee Bendolph, Serena Cole, Thornton Dial, Sylvia Fragoso, David Huffman, Jane Kim, Martin Puryear, Christopher Russell, Rachel Sumpter, Jonathan Valdivias and Stanley Whitney.

Rhea Fontaine is Partner and Gallery Director at Paulson Fontaine Press in Berkeley. She’s is one of the first African-American women to publish fine art prints by contemporary artists. Dedicated to contributing to the image archive of artists of the African Diaspora, she is a former curatorial board member at Southern Exposure. She received a BA in Fine Art from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1998 and a post-baccalaureate diploma in museum studies from Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy. Fontaine is also a Board Member of NIAD Art Center.

This is the first exhibition Rhea Fontaine has organized at NIAD.

Remembrance Of Things Past

Memory is an especially rich and important source for art as well as personal growth for incarcerated people. When NIAD Art Center proposed “Remembrance of Things Past” to the Prison Arts Project, the artists in the classes at San Quentin were inspired to share memories told through their drawings and paintings. The truly poignant works — from a vaguely remembered grandmother cradling a baby to long ago homes and neighborhoods — reach as far back as early childhood or to their “last day of freedom.” Due to three strike laws and other policies of mass incarceration, many of the participating inmates have been inside prison walls for exceptionally long periods of up to 40 years, yet their ties to memory speak to our shared humanity.

The Prison Arts Project, started in 1977, was the original model for Arts in Corrections, a statewide California prison arts program which helped lower recidivism (return-to-prison rates) and improve the quality of life for inmates, their families and the larger community.

Arts in Corrections is based on the belief that when institutionalized individuals participate in the arts their self-esteem and outlook on the world is significantly affected. Art workshops teach self-discipline, problem solving, teamwork and concentration; the skills acquired through participation in the arts are translated to other aspects of one’s life. Arts in Corrections is now being revived as a pilot project in a partnership between the California Arts Council and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. San Quentin’s program offers classes morning, afternoon and evening six days a week with a team of 12 professional teachers. San Quentin Prison Arts Project, which has held steady since 1980, helps serve as a model for re-building the programs in all state prisons, with some arts classes now offered in all 35 prisons.

Although of some the San Quentin artists have donated art to NIAD’s annual benefit Win Win, this is the first exhibition of their work at the Art Center.


Philadelphia artist Jim Christensen’s work reflects upon the history of American manufacturing and the politics embedded in historical and contemporary forms of labor and craftsmanship. His recent paintings on paper reference a number of visual and textual sources from the earlier part of the Twentieth-Century, a time marked by rising industrialization, labor disputes, assembly-line production, the advent of prohibition and international conflict. All of his work is marked by an intentional hand-made quality that the artist refers to as “homespun.” As such, the pieces in “I WORK WHILE YOU SLEEP” pay homage to this country’s history of working-class immigrant labor and point to the value of the individual’s unique contribution to the whole.

The Berkeley Art Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and Mulherin NYC are a few of the various places at which Christensen’s work has been exhibited. His work is in the collection of the M.H. DeYoung Museum, as well as numerous private collections. He is represented by Electric Works Gallery in San Francisco.

This is the first solo exhibition of Jim Christensen’s work at NIAD Art Center as well as in the Bay Area.

Opening Reception is Saturday, February 3 from 1:00 – 4:00 pm with music spun by Wayne Smith