Welcome to the Painting by Numbers Website

Thank you for visiting!

7“Painting by Numbers: Women in Arizona Detention Centers, Bringing Numerical Statistics to Life” is an interactive, political mural project that addresses the relatively recent practice of detaining women in Arizona. This fall, larger than life-size portraits of women detainees will be created through public participation at various local events and the Nogales border. This project has been made possible through a 2012 P.L.A.C.E. Initiative grant awarded by the Tucson Pima Arts Council; to check out the TPAC website and see the other 2012 P.L.A.C.E. Initiative recipients click here.

Throughout the spring and summer local artist Wesley Fawcett Creigh, in collaboration with fellow artists Shloka Mangharam and Cristina Cardenas, have been researching, conceptualizing, and fabricating the mural panels. Additionally, this project has been guided and supported by  various local organizations such as, Derechos Humanos, Raices Taller Gallery, Corazon de Tucson, No More Deaths–U of A chapter, the Tucson Dia V Committee, and by Molly Kincaid, a current volunteer with The Florence Project. Each and everyone has done their part to inspire and make this undertaking possible.

As fall closes in on us, it is time to bring the project out into the open. In the coming weeks and months, the panels will be appearing at events around Tucson and beyond. The public is invited to participate in coloring-in the panels, collectively completing the 8’x16′ mural.  In addition to coloring in the artwork, people are also encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings on matters of immigration, ICE detention, the detention of Women specifically, etc. This can be done in numerous ways, including striking up conversations with the artists or fellow participants, or leaving comments in a logbook that will travel with the project, or even by posting comments on this site. This site will also act as a resource for learning more about the issue of detaining women based on immigration status in Arizona.

Keep returning to this site for continued updates, announcements, links, and photos of the project in action.

We look forward to your participation and hope to see you soon.

4c_goldplace logo copy

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Painting by Numbers Mural Finds Permanent Home!

The Global Justice Center contacted me in the fall of 2013 and asked me to install the Painting by Number’s mural at the newly opened Global Justice Center residing in the old Stardust Lounge space on 225 E. 26th St in South Tucson. The center houses the offices of many local political organizations, including Derechos Humanos, Alliance for Global Justice, and Pan Left Productions. We are honored to have this artwork on display there, and urge you to go see it in person!


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Detention Exhibition Closing Reception, this saturday night!

If you missed out on the opening, there will be a low-key reception for the Detention Exhibition at Industria Studios this saturday, April 27, from 6-9pm. There will be beverages, snacks, and of course, a donation jar for The Florence Project (no one turned away).

And because I am constantly messing this up in my publicity stuff: The Florence Project is based in FLORENCE, not Tucson, and is not affiliated directly with the U of A! I apologize for getting this wrong all the time.

Join us if you can, spread the word!

The entrance to Industria Studios is located on Vine St. between 16th St and 17th St. It is across the street from Roma Imports and just south of the Cox Communications complex that is just west of Campbell on 15th St. Here’s a map.

Carlos Encinas %22VIRGEN COKE LIBERTY%22              “Virgen Coke Liberty” by Carlos Encinas

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Tucson Weekly Article and Other Media Links

Last week, I got the opportunity to show Margaret Regan from the Tucson Weekly the Detention Exhibition I curated at Industria Studios. I have pasted the amazing article she wrote below. Thanks Margaret!

In addition, the exhibition was also covered on the CultureStrike website (if you have not checked out CultureStrike, do so, now!), and it was also featured on KVOA channel 4 News.

                 Life Behind Bars

A new exhibit uses art to bring attention to the abuses of the private prison system


"Painting by Numbers Mural Project," (cropped) by Wesley Fawcett Creigh.

Art Exhibition

Gallery open 1 to 5 p.m.; closing reception 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 27

Industria Studios, 1441 E. 17th St. (entrance on Vine between 16th and 17th streets)


235-0797; paintingbynumbersproject.wordpress.com

Thirty percent of proceeds from sales of the art benefits the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, which provides free legal services to detainees.

If you drive north from Tucson toward Phoenix, up past the craggy outlines of Picacho Peak, you pass an innocuous sign for Eloy.

Not many travelers flying up I-10 to the Valley of the Sun take note of the exit, and few have reason to turn off here. It’s something the Corrections Corporation of America counts on.

Because if Arizonans did routinely travel the small road past Eloy, driving east eight or so miles past run-down farmhouses and trailers, they’d come upon a gigantic detention center rising up in the rural flats like a nightmare mirage.

Behind the building’s layers of barbed wire, on the other side of its thick gray block walls, are thousands of undocumented migrants.

The for-profit CCA holds them there for Uncle Sam, charging a tidy daily fee for their meager keep.

Several hundred of the detainees are women, many of them mothers separated from their children. And because they’re not charged with a criminal offense, these prisoners don’t enjoy the same rights that criminal defendants do: They have no right to an attorney or to a speedy hearing. As a result, they can languish behind bars in Eloy indefinitely, hidden away and mostly forgotten.

Tucson artist Wesley Fawcett Creigh first began learning about the detained women from their children.

“I work in a group home for children in CPS custody,” says Creigh, who curated the Detention Art Exhibition at Industria Studios in Tucson. Creigh speaks fluent Spanish—she bummed around Mexico and Guatemala for a couple of years a while back—and she began hearing from some of the kids just how they ended up being ripped away from their homes.

“Some had mothers in detention,” she says. “They told stories of their mom being taken away,” by the Border Patrol or agents from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Or when a new child showed up, Creigh would hear from another staffer that “the Border Patrol just brought him over, or the Department of Homeland Security.”

It’s a “traumatic experience for any of these kids to be placed among strangers,” Creigh says, but most of the CPS kids are taken away because their parents are abusive or neglectful. Not so with the children of the mothers in immigrant detention: these kids are in CPS custody only because their mothers have been removed—by the government.

And the two massive bureaucracies—the state Child Protective Services and the federal Department of Homeland Security—don’t exactly work well together to promote the best interests of the family.

“Indefinite ICE detention is taking a big toll on families,” Creigh says.

The artist researched the issue, drawing on two groundbreaking studies by Nina Rabin, a professor now on leave from the UA College of Law. Focusing on immigration detention, Rabin’s Unseen Prisoners highlighted the poor conditions for women detainees and Disappearing Parentsdocumented the separation of families.

“As immigration has inflated, so has detention, and people have found a way to profit,” Creigh says.

Creigh decided to use art to bring these hidden issues to light. A mural artist who graduated from Prescott College, Creigh won a P.L.A.C.E grant of $2,790 from the Tucson Pima Arts Council to create a yearlong interactive art project. Called “Painting by Numbers: Women in AZ Detention Centers, Bringing Numerical Statistics to Life,” the project is just what it sounds like: a large-scale paint-by-numbers mural with a twist. It was made in an unusual crowd-sourcing collaboration between Creigh and members of the public.

To start, Creigh put together four plywood panels, each 8 feet high and 4 feet across; joined together, they make a mural 16 feet wide. She projected her own larger-than-life drawings of women onto this wooden “canvas,” placing the figures against a backdrop where prison bars intrude onto a desert landscape.

With the help of Shloka Ettna, Creigh hauled the panels around to five public spaces—Raices Taller gallery, the Tanque Verde Swap Meet, Armory Park, Fluxx Gallery and a street in Nogales, Ariz., just steps away from the border wall. In each location, she and Ettna set up an outdoor painting studio open to one and all. Kids, teens, adults: all were invited to fill in the blanks of the big painting on wood.

“The painting was extremely appealing to the kids,” Creigh says. “They’d say, ‘I want to go home and paint, Mom.'”

But the bigger kids and the adults also learned something along the way. Each number on the drawing corresponded not only to a color but also to a particular fact about detention. When the community painters dipped their brushes into the can of dark-red paint marked with the number 300, they could read on the side that 300 women are typically detained on any given day in Arizona. The can of light-brown paint labeled 2001 revealed that captured women immigrants have been formally detained only since 2001. (As a result, Creigh notes, the detention centers still have not gotten around to meeting the particular physical and psychological needs of women.)

Many of the adults, especially at the swap meet and in Nogales, would “talk of women they know in detention,” Creigh says.

During her paint-by-numbers year, which ended in February, Creigh met other artists who are also illuminating the agonies of immigration in their art. Mark David Leviton, who taught the now 28-year-old Creigh at Prescott College, invited her to stage an exhibition in his Industria Studios, a gallery and studio south of the UA.

Creigh’s Detention Art Exhibition not only gives pride of place to the finished paint-by-number mural, it also displays 16 other pieces in multiple media by 10 other invited artists.

Julio Salgado of California displays five hard-hitting posters documenting life among the undocumented. One pictures a mother holding her child. The text reads: “You backpacked across Europe and they called you adventurous. I crossed a border to save my daughter’s life and they call me a criminal.”

Pancho Medina dedicated his searing installation to all migrants who have died in ICE detention. A skeleton lies in a coffin made of prison bars, flanked by American flags.

In her acrylic painting “In My Backyard,” Nicole DiSante conjured the tedious days in detention centers, where few if any activities are offered. It’s an aerial view of a dormitory, filled with immigrants idling on beds.

A small painting by Ettna, who helped manage the paint-by-number project, imagines a happy ending to the detention tale. It’s like a Mexican religious retablo, but the miracle it celebrates was not occasioned by a saint. Instead, it pictures a Latina woman breaking out of detention, bending the bars with her own two hands.

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Opening Reception Recap

Thanks to everyone who came out for the Detention Exhibition opening reception earlier this month. There was a steady crowd of people from 6-10pm and the artwork provoked a lot of questions and discussion about detention practices and border policies, both current and proposed. Lindsay Marshall from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project spoke to the attendees about the history of the organization and what their mission of providing free legal counsel typically involves. I want to thank Lindsay for participating in the opening; it really enhanced the whole evening. In addition, we collected fifty dollars in the donation jar which, according to the Florence Project’s website, covers “the time for one staff attorney to provide one “know your rights” presentation to a group of forty detainees before their first court appearance and meet with each one individually to answer questions and screen them for relief.”. I am so glad that this exhibition could give back in that way; this could not have been possible without the involvement and incredible talents of all of the participating artists!

Here are a few images from the night:



Pancho Medina with his interactive sculpture installation, “Carmelita de las Flores Sin Papeles”

Simon Arizpe %22Punch Bowl Solar Still%22                                        Simon Arizpe’s “Punch Bowl Solar Still”

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NY Times Article, The Florence Project, and Art Exhibition Article

Last Sunday, the New York Times printed an article on the legal rights of Immigrants in ICE custody in the United States, or, more accurately, the serious lack of legal rights. Immigrant detainees in the custody of the United States, do not possess the right to legal counsel nor do they have the right to a specific sentence or timeframe for their detention, they may be held indefinitely according to our current laws. This is cruel, inhumane, and an extremely costly practice. The Times article investigates this very thoroughly and includes some absolutely shocking statistics (including the fact that on a given day, there are an average of 34,000 immigrant detainees being held in the United States). Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/sunday-review/immigrant-detainees-and-the-right-to-counsel.html?pagewanted=all

This article really drives home the fact that if organizations like The Florence Project did not exist, then detainees would have absolutely no access to legal counsel. While this small organization and others like it throughout the country  have helped so many detainees avoid deportation or obtain amnesty status they only have enough resources to scratch the surface. It is really important that they receive recognition for the incredibly hard work that they do as well as monetary support. You can make a donation to them  through their website. [link]

Lastly, if you are looking for something to do this Saturday night, you can come down to Industria Studios on 1441 E 17th St and take in the Detention Art Exhibition I have been planning and curating for the past several months. The opening reception starts @ 6:30pm and the show will run through April 28th. Lindsay Marshall from the Florence Project will be speaking about the organization @ 7:30 pm. There will be a donation jar for them  at the show and in addition a certain percentage of the proceeds from the sale of any artwork will go to them as well. So if your walls are looking bare consider supporting our artists and an amazing team of legal advocates! Charles Spillar from the Tucson Citizen, wrote this great article about the upcoming exhibition: http://tucsoncitizen.com/art/2013/03/31/new-art-exhibit-blasts-current-ice-detention-practices/

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Detention Art Exhibition

 April 6-April 28, 2013 @ Industria Studios

Opening Reception Saturday April 6, 2013


                            Amy's painting012

                                             “The Shame” © Amy Hagemeier 2013

Join us Saturday, April 6th from 6:30pm to 10:00pm for an art exhibition that addresses the current detention practices of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and raises money for The Florence Project, an amazing Tucson organization that provides free legal aide to Arizona ICE detainees.

A guest speaker, Lindsay Marshall from The Florence Project, will be saying a few words about the organization and its role in the larger immigration picture @ 7:30 following an introduction from the curator and artist behind the Painting by Numbers ProjectWesley Fawcett Creigh.

The exhibition will include paintings, interactive sculpture, prints, and mixed media work by artists from Tucson, Oakland, and NYC.

Artists include:

Cristina Cardenas

Pancho Medina

Julio Salgado

Simon Arizpe

Ruben Urrea Moreno

Shloka M. Ettna

Amy Hagemeier

Nicole Disante

Wesley Fawcett Creigh

Carlos Encinas

Max Encinas


Industria Studios

A Non-Profit 501 © (3) Corporation

1441 E. 17th St

(Entrance on Vine between 16th and 17th Street)

Tucson, AZ 85719


For more information contact: wcreigh@gmail.com

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Painting by Numbers Project on Univision! also, ‘Migration is Beautiful’ link

I woke up this morning to find an incredible link waiting for me in my inbox. Several days ago, I spoke with Univision reporter Karla Gomez-Escamilla who wanted to do a story on the Painting by Numbers project. Over the weekend she put together an amazing report on not only the project but the inhumane detention of women by ICE. She went above and beyond the call of duty to really expose the horrific reality of the detention centers; she even included footage from inside these centers. I want to express my gratitude for putting so much effort into this important issue.

You can check out the video here:


I also wanted to highlight another artist who is doing some very  beautiful, powerful work. Her name is Favianna Rodriguez and she is an Oakland based artist and activist. She was recently profiled by a video series called “Voice of Art”. The 3 part video documentary is titled “Migration is Beautiful” and I am attaching the link to part 1 here:


Be sure to check out her work, it’s exciting stuff.

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Potluck Recap and Media Coverage

I would like to thank everyone who came out last friday to attend the presentation and potluck. I would especially like to extend my gratitude to the staff and volunteers of La Coalicion de Derechos Humanos; their help with outreach, setup, and food was amazing and I was honored to be given the opportunity to wrap up my project in that way. It seems like many people came away inspired about new projects that can serve as a means to spread knowledge and creative expression to the greater community. I know that I ended the night incredibly inspired for my next big schemes.

I also wanted to share an article that was written about the project last week by Maria Leon, who is a reporter for EFE, a Spanish international news agency. It was a pleasure to be able to sit down and speak with her, she is an extremely committed person who does so much to bring important immigration-related stories to the greater public.  I have copied the article below:

La artista Wesley Fawcett Creigh posa frente al mural que realizó sobre los retos que enfrentan las indocumentadas en los centros de detención de Arizona. EFE

La artista Wesley Fawcett Creigh posa frente al mural que realizó sobre los retos …

Tucson (Arizona), 8 feb (EFE).- Una artista en el sur de Arizona ha plasmado en un mural utilizando una combinación de números y colores el sufrimiento, los problemas y el trato inhumano que enfrentan las indocumentadas en los centros de detención de Arizona.

El mural, integrado por tres paneles de 4 pies de ancho por ocho pies de alto, muestra los rostros de cuatro mujeres cuyas facciones fueron inspiradas por relatos de mujeres que han estado en los centros de detención para inmigrantes. El proyecto plasma las alarmantes estadísticas sobre las detenciones de mujeres por la Oficina de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE).

Cada número fue coordinado con un color en particular, por ejemplo el rojo oscuro con el 300, el cual representa el número que se estima de mujeres detenidas en los centros del ICE en Arizona en 2009, de acuerdo con las cifras obtenidas por la artista y autora del proyecto Wesley Fawcett Creigh.

El color café oscuro fue usado con el número 3 y representa el número de centros de detención en Arizona, así como un café claro con el 2001 que simboliza el año en que las mujeres comenzaron a ser recluidas en los centros de detención en este estado.

Cada rostro, originalmente dibujado en blanco y negro, fue dividido en diferentes pedazos, cada uno con un número y color asignado, los cuales fueron pintados por niños y familias enteras en diferentes eventos públicos.

“Este es un proyecto que nos llevó aproximadamente un año”, dijo a Efe Fawcett Creigh.

El mural “Pintando con números, mujeres en los centros de detención de Arizona, sacando a la vida las estadísticas” fue posible gracias a la colaboración de otras organizaciones en Arizona, entre ellas, la Coalición de los Derechos Humanos de Arizona, Corazón de Tucson y No más Mueres.

La financiación para el proyecto provino de un fondo otorgado por el Concilio de los Artes de Tucson Pima a través de la iniciativa P.L.A.C.E.

“Las condiciones inhumanas que viven las mujeres en los centros de detenciones en Arizona es un tema que creo que no es discutido lo suficiente”, dijo Fawcett Creigh.

La artista dijo que como proyecto fue basado en cifras, pasó gran parte de su tiempo tratando de conseguir estos números, los cuales le fueron negados en su totalidad por ICE, por lo que basó su trabajo en investigaciones y reportes hechos por investigadores y organizaciones.

Explicó que de acuerdo con su investigación, los centros de detención fueron originalmente diseñados para hombres, las mujeres fueron agregadas a este sistema, por lo que no éstos no cubren sus necesidades físicas y emocionales.

“Cuando ICE comenzó a detener a mujeres, vimos un cambio dramático y el comienzo de la separación de familias”, dijo la artista, quien indicó que lo más difícil es mantener al día estos números ya que pueden variar drásticamente de un momento a otro.

Aseguró que los centros de detenciones son unos lugares extremadamente “inaccesibles”, ya que hasta el momento entrar a uno de ellos le ha sido negado a la artista.

Fawcett Creigh tuvo la oportunidad de reunirse con una mujer que pasó seis meses detenida en Arizona proveniente de África a la cual finalmente se le otorgó el asilo político.

“Esta mujer fue detenida primero en México y ella me dijo que fue tratada mejor en ese país que aquí, donde pasó frío y hambre”, señaló la artista

“En Arizona, las mujeres pasan días o incluso meses detenidas en estos lugares, aisladas, algunas veces sin tener ningún contacto con su familia, ya que estos temen ser detenidos también por su estatus migratorio”, agregó.

La artista expresó su preocupación porque las detenidas no tienen un acceso a una representación legal, por lo que pueden ser detenidas “indefinidamente”.

“Entre más leí y averigüé sobre este tema, me di cuenta que hay muchas cosas que no sabemos sobre esta población que para muchos es ‘invisible'”, aseguró.

Tras su investigación encontró más necesario aún representar esta problemática la cual se ha visto agravada en Arizona debido a la implementación de leyes estatales como la SB1070 que han resultado en la detención de docenas de inmigrantes indocumentados.

La artista Wesley Fawcett Creigh posa frente al mural que realizó sobre los retos que enfrentan las indocumentadas en los centros de detención de Arizona. EFE

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Photos of the Finished Mural

Yesterday we got it all assembled. I am really pleased with how it turned out.

You can check it out in person at Armory Park this Friday at 6:30.

See you then.


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Derechos Humanos Community Potluck

The Painting by Numbers Project is nearly all wrapped up (for now!) and La Coalicion de Derechos Humanos is hosting a community potluck to showcase the finished panels. This will be the first time all four panels will be displayed together to form the full mural. This project was essentially an experiment to see how an interactive, artistic experience can engage participants with social or political issues. I will be giving a presentation that explains how the project was executed, its successes and challenges, and the value of the arts in political movements. In addition, I will also be sharing my research that I conducted to inform this project, which included interviews with former ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainees and their legal advocates. [related link] There is a desperate case for reforming the way ICE conducts their detention of migrants. Women migrants in particular make up a large, unseen population on the outskirts of our communities whose specific medical, emotional and familial needs are not being met. As women continue to be subjected to these indefinite and non-criminal incarcerations families will continue to be separated and children will continue to be caught up in the equally bureaucratic and convoluted CPS (Child Protective Services) system. [related link] The trauma that occurs from these separations and imprisonment is long lasting and severely damaging. Yet this is something we are ignorant about because we do not have to face it at all. ICE has made sure this population is virtually invisible to us. The more we can inform ourselves the more we can begin to struggle for reform.

Thank you so much for your interest in this project and the issue of ICE detention. This is a reality across the nation, but AZ is at the forefront of our nation’s immigration policy trends. The wellbeing of thousands of people and their families is at stake, it is here where we must work hardest to turn things around.

The potluck discussion is taking place on Friday, February 8 @ 6:30 pm in the Armory Park Community Center. I hope to see you at the event, proceeds from any donations (no one will be turned away) will go to La Coalicion de Derechos Humanos to support their incredible and tireless efforts toward humane border policies.

Painting by Numbers 2-8-13.ai

* The Painting by Numbers Project was made possible by a PLACE Initiative grant from the Tucson Pima Arts Council. Thanks TPAC for the opportunity to do this work!

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