New exhibition showcases artwork by people in the criminal justice system during lockdown

New exhibition showcases artwork by people in the criminal justice system during lockdown

27 April 2021

A new exhibition showcasing artwork made by people in the criminal justice system during lockdown will make its debut at the Millennium Gallery when the Gallery reopens this May.

Curated by young people working with Sheffield Youth Justice Service (SYJS), My Path: Art by People in the Criminal Justice System is a Koestler Arts exhibition, in collaboration with Sheffield Museums, and is the first time the charity has exhibited work in Yorkshire.

Koestler Arts recognises the uniquely transformative power of art – for almost 60 years, the charity has worked across the criminal justice system to help creativity become part of people’s rehabilitative journey. A key strand of that work is to share the talent and potential of these artists with the public through exhibitions across the UK, including an annual exhibition at London’s Southbank Centre.

My Path marks the first Koestler Arts exhibition in the region and has been curated by young people working with Sheffield Youth Justice Service. The curators thoughtfully brought their own unique insight and imagination to the artwork selection, with themes including time, journeys and the future of the planet.

The resulting exhibition is a creative walk through of art from the criminal justice system; each of the 61 artworks on display has been made by someone in a prison, secure hospital, young offender institution or on probation. These have been selected from over 300 artworks from across Yorkshire which were entered into the nationwide 2020 Koestler Awards.

Many of the artworks were created during the height of the pandemic in establishments which had 23-hour lockups in place, so prisoners had access to few materials. Works are displayed alongside captions telling some of the stories behind their creation, and insights from the SYJS curators.

Throughout the curation process the group and staff from SYJS were led by Sheffield-based artist Sarah Jane Palmer in a series of socially-distanced workshops at the Millennium Gallery. Together the group explored the meaning of ‘curation’, looked through hundreds of artworks, and heard from graphic designers and staff from Sheffield Museums about what goes on behind-the-scenes to make an exhibition a reality.

Transporting works, curating and installing the exhibition has all taken place amidst the restrictions of Covid-19. Koestler Arts exhibitions always demonstrate the power of art to bring hope and change in challenging situations and in the context of the last year, this has never been more apparent.

Sally Taylor, Chief Executive of Koestler Arts said: “We are thrilled to open Millennium Gallery’s public programme with this hopeful exhibition of our entrants’ artwork. The young curators have drawn together a wonderfully varied selection, from metalwork sculptures to original music tracks. We hope many visitors will have the opportunity to encounter the art in the gallery and be intrigued and inspired, though the exhibition will also have a strong presence online.”

Kirstie Hamilton, Director of Programmes at Sheffield Museums said: “We’re really delighted to be working with Koestler Arts and our project partners to present this exhibition at the Millennium Gallery. It’s a real testament to the vision and imagination of the young curators. We’re particularly pleased that this exhibition opens after our doors have been closed for so long – under hugely challenging circumstances, these artists have created work that is both compelling and hopeful, so it couldn’t be more relevant.”

Sam Taylor, Assistant Service Manager at Sheffield Youth Justice Service said: “Staff from Sheffield Youth Justice Service feel honoured to have been able to be part of this wonderful opportunity offered to the young people of Sheffield. We have seen the young people we work with be inspired, motivated, challenged and moved by both the art submitted and the privilege of giving a voice to those currently unable to be heard. We hope this experience has ignited an interest in the arts for the young people involved and will raise in the audience an awareness of the experiences of those who face incarceration.”

My Path – Art by People in the Criminal Justice System opens at the Millennium Gallery 20 May and continues until Sunday 20 June 2021 – entry is free.


To avoid disappointment, visitors are encouraged to pre-book their free visit to the museum. Pre-booking and reduced numbers are part of a range comprehensive safety measures in place, which also include enhanced cleaning, hand sanitiser stations and changes to the building’s air handling system to continuously bring in fresh air. Visitors can plan and book their visit online at: