Bayview Series: Transformative Power of Art

Transformation From The Inside Out © Women & Justice Project
Photo of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor6 March 2017

Katie Yamasaki, a muralist in New York City, uses her artistic talents to teach others how to transcend their temporary realities and hardships through art. Inside the gymnasium of Bayview Correctional Facility, a former women’s prison in Manhattan, Katie Yamasaki discusses the transformative power of art. Yamasaki works closely with incarcerated mothers and their children to create murals and use art as a therapeutic medium of expression.

“I conducted a series of workshops with mothers and children related to [the] theme of transformation to get them to tell their story,” Yamasaki says.

Katie Yamasaki at the Women & Justice Project’s healing and transformation ceremony for formerly incarcerated women | © Women & Justice Project

“I worked with the Women & Justice Project and another organization called Our Children, which is a group that works with formerly incarcerated women as they leave prison and rebuild their lives, reunite with their families. The mural is a collaboration with about twenty women and twelve to fourteen children telling their story through the form of muralism.”

Art is not only a medium for storytelling and personal expression. According to Yamasaki it can also help a person transcend their current reality into a higher state of being. “When I’ve worked with populations of women who are incarcerated, what you really feel is the therapeutic benefit of art. As they’re kind of working through a drawing or a painting, and just having the physical experience of being with the material, and creating something where there wasn’t anything before, you see people’s spirits open up in a certain way.

I’ve heard people say things like, ‘for the last hour I forgot that I was in prison.'”