An art exhibition originally designed for museums in New York City and Los Angeles has been specifically tailored to be shown at Winona State University — making WSU the first university in the country to host it.

The exhibition sheds light on currently incarcerated LGBTQ+ artists, a group that nationally faces a greater risk of physical and sexual victimization, by giving them a needed outlet to share their identities with the world.

Winona State University and Watkins Art Gallery are hosting “On the Inside,” which features thought-provoking art, stories, and a replica of a solitary confinement cell — the latter in which 85% of LGBTQ+ individuals who answered a survey have spent time, with half having spent up to two years.

The exhibition, which is open to the community and will be up until March 4, features artwork created by currently incarcerated LGBTQ+ artists.

For a deeper dive into the exhibition, students and community members can join a Zoom discussion with the curators on Jan. 25. Engaging with the exhibit will continue through February and into March with different disciplines and campus student organizations watching and discussing related film showings, creating discussion guides, and participating in a donation book drive to support the LGBT Books to Prisoners project.

This exhibition provides students and community members a way to examine interlocking oppressions of carceral violence and discuss social justice issues that affect them and their community.

Mary Jo Klinker

Associate Professor for the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department

The exhibit, which has been in the works to come to WSU for several years, started when the organization Black & Pink put out a call for art in their monthly newsletter that publishes work by incarcerated individuals. The ad received almost 4,000 submissions with the majority being portraits of individuals.

“These artists who are locked away feel forgotten and invisible to society,” the curators wrote. “Through their art, they boldly reclaim their identity.”

Beyond learning about different lived experiences, the exhibit allows students and viewers to engage in a form of social change.

“The act of defiance inherent in each piece has the power to subvert the gallery into an active space of protest,” the curators wrote. “It demands to be seen. It is our sincere hope that you do.”

There will be an opportunity to donate money or books to Madison, WI-based LGBT Books to Prisoners locally in February.

Check out the exhibit schedule for more details. For more event information, contact Dr. Mary Jo Klinker at And to inquire about a gallery tour, contact gallery manager Roger Boulay at


On The Inside: Public Programming

Jan. 25, 11am (Zoom)
Talk: The Curatorial Process
With curator Tatiana von Furstenberg and designer Eline Mul.

Feb. 1, 5pm (SLC120/Watkins Gallery)
Film Screening: Free Cece
Story of Cece McDonald, a leader of the growing movement to disassemble the prison industrial complex. With reception to follow at the Watkins Gallery.

Feb. 15, 5pm (SLC120)
Film Screening: The Gentleman Bank Robber
Story of butch lesbian freedom fighter Rita Bo Brown.

Feb. 23, 7-8:30pm (Zoom)
Solidarity Through Mutual Aid
With the organization LGBT Books to Prisoners.

March 1
Exhibition Reception, 6pm (Watkins Gallery)
Women’s History Month, 7pm (SLC120/Zoom)
A presentation by activist and organizer Monica Cosby.