Lesley Achitoff (Class of 2004) and Katie Hinson (Class of 2010) recently discussed their work at Rikers Island with Tess Thackara at Artsy.
Every weekday morning, Katie Hinson drives across the long bridge from the tip of Astoria, Queens, to the penitentiary on Rikers Island. She passes through three security checkpoints and heads to the women’s jail. Hinson is neither a correctional officer nor an administrator; she is among a handful of therapists who have dedicated themselves to helping Rikers inmates through making art.
For Hinson, each day consists of three to four one-hour group art therapy sessions with the inmates—or patients, as they’re referred to by the therapists. “When they know that I’m coming, they’re all seated in the dayroom,” Hinson told me when we met, along with the island’s art therapy supervisor Lesley Achitoff, in Astoria in June. “They’re all really invested, it’s kind of awesome,” Hinson continues. “I’ve started to take requests for music, which has been a great component. It’s something they’ve been able to choose, because they don’t otherwise have any choice for anything. I put on music and they come up and grab materials.”