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Now on display at the Idea Lab


Featuring artwork from Kendrick Mitchell and Christopher Williams

April 7 - July 1, 2022

-    Curated by Deb Olin Unferth, Director, Pen City Writers, and Jessica Vacek, Coordinator and Instructor, Pen City Illustrators



“For you who believe you’re doing time alone, look around you. Those thoughts are not the truth.” 

-- Christopher Williams


Kendrick Mitchell and Christopher Williams are serving life sentences at the same maximum-security prison in southeast Texas. Never Alone is the first public exhibition of their work, a rare chance to witness their urgent perspectives and unique talent. These autobiographical drawings and comics were born of years of hard work and self-education, as the artists worked and reworked their ideas on the page.  

Here Mitchell and Williams share their quotidian struggles along with their escapes into daydreams. Images of cells, bunks, and razor wire are juxtaposed with surreal visions of wide-open landscapes, trees, and distant cities. Stories of strain stand beside quiet reflection, sorrow beside strength, uncertainty beside ambitions for a better future. The artists’ humor and grace are alive on the page, along with their rage, as they tell their stories. Both Mitchell and Williams work primarily with ink and pencil on white paper, as other materials are hard to come by inside the prison.

As you encounter each piece, you will encounter many different barriers and fences and the many ways the artists strive to see beyond them. By rupturing the spaces of the penitentiary in their drawings, Mitchell and Williams transcend the walls of the prison, of this gallery, and of the walls of their own making, to speak directly to the viewer.

Christopher Williams and Kendrick Mitchell are students in the Pen City Writers, a creative writing and arts program for incarcerated students.

Founded in 2015, the Pen City Writers is a cooperative of writers and artists behind bars, as well as a set of UT courses. The students have their own library, publish their own journal, earn UT college credit, publish in magazines, and win awards. Mitchell and Williams created the work seen here over several years in the Pen City Illustrators, the program’s comics and illustration course, run by correspondence.


- Deb Olin Unferth, Director, Pen City Writers, and Jessica Vacek, Coordinator and Instructor, Pen City Illustrators

The program is sponsored by the English Department at the University of Texas at Austin.