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Art Without Bars started in 2000, as an association coupling art exhibitions in prison with workshops organised for inmates. We began with the conviction that art and culture could make the penitentiary scene more humane.

The organisation established itself officially in 2005. Now Art Without Bars organises exhibitions of work by free artists within the walls of the prison, but also art produced by detainees and not detained artists in public places. Art Without Bars today aims to promote alternative methods for reintegration including multidisciplinary workshops for persons with a juridical past. These workshops have been organised since January 2017 in the Poorthuis which has free access and is easily  located on the ring of Leuven.

For its activities Art Without Bars works with partners.

An example:
Exhibition L’ imaginair griffoné. During “Le Festival des Libertés” in November 2007 an exhibition took place in Brussels in cooperation with The service for moral assistance to inmates where pictures of graffiti were exhibited. Caricatures of 19th-C. jailers and photographs of graffiti were also displayed.
The collection, which is part of the file of AWB (see. infra) contains both graffiti of the penitentiary of Vilvoorde and recent graffiti of the heat insulation cell of Oudenaarde.
Graffiti and tattoos are “cell mates”. Until today both let inmates give way to their feelings, although it’s illegal.
In the penitentiary in Vilvoorde splendid flower aims have been kept, beside simple landscapes and shabby drawings. The pin-stripes to count days, but also texts as e.g. “4 years in this pen without sun or s(ex)” press hanker to the freedom from, and deeper still: the universal sense against cloistering

Overview of exhibitions with workshops organized in Belgian prisons:

Leuven Centraal: October – November 2000 Timur NOVIKOV
Leuven Hulpgevangenis: December -January 2000-2001 Timur NOVIKOV
St.-Gillis: September 2002 Joulia STRAUSSOVA
St.-Gillis: March – April 2002 Timur NOVIKOV
Oudenaarde: December 2002 Marcel MAEYER
  Cultureel Centrum Maagdendale Timur NOVIKOV
Tournai: December – January 2004 – 2005 Timur NOVIKOV
Nivelles: January 2005 Sam DILLEMANS
Hoogstraten: March – April 2006 Timur NOVIKOV
2008 tot 2016: travelling exhibition Inmate Tattoo 

Overview of exhibitions Art Story

Leuven Centrale Bibliotheek KULeuven: May 2013 To Dream beyond Walls
Deurle, Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens November 2014 – March 2015 This world of cut thorns

Art Without Bars celebrates its 10th year of existence

The Museum Dr. Guislain and Art Without Bars collaborated for the exhibition Fatalitas! Drawings by inmates of the interbellum period taking place from May 22 untill September 12 2010. The vernissage is on May 21. On May 27 a festive nocturne with lecture of stories of the interbellum by François Beukelaers will take palace . More information to be found by the link “Projects” (I) and at the secretary of Art Without Bars.

Library Art and Detention

Art Without Bars vzw is gradually building an archive on art in detention in the Poorthuis in Leuven. All items are digitally registered. The file can be consulted with search tools by researchers who register in advance. Visitors can consult the books on the spot.

This archive contains books, magazine articles as well as DVDs and covers the various art disciplines. Of course it is also possible to search by author and title as well as by specific headings such as ‘body art’, an area resulting from the project The ornamental body which AWB developed in 2008, in cooperation with De Witte Zaal in Ghent.
All books and information material concerning art in the penitentiary environment are gratefully accepted and digitally processed. 

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