Visual artist Nigel Poor has spent years offering us a glimpse of life behind bars. Poor is not incarcerated, but she has worked with people inside California’s San Quentin Prison to tell the stories of everyday life. Among the ways she’s done that is through curating a remarkable group of large-format photographs taken over the years by prison staff — some of which are on exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
But Poor has also co-produced and hosted a podcast called Ear Hustle, along with Earlonne Woods, who was sentenced to 31 years-to life for second-degree attempted armed robbery. Woods’ sentence was commuted last fall and he is now a free man, and a full-time producer for Ear Hustle, though his stories have obviously changed since leaving prison.
"Most people in prison fantasize about being outside the prison. So my mind was already out there in the streets," says Woods. "But we used to talk about, like, 'When I get out, we’re going cover re-entry or something — we’re just going to add another component to Ear Hustle.' "
One of the things Poor says she's looking forward to is traveling with Woods and giving more public presentations together. She's also thinking about how Ear Hustle can grow beyond the podcast.
"I don't know what that is, but thinking about what are the possibilities because we've been fortunate enough to get a big following and have a lot of opportunities come our way that I hope we can take advantage of — and push us creatively and emotionally," said Poor.
Poor and Woods spoke recently with Lake Effect's Joy Powers about their work together, and Woods talked about what it was like to finally leave prison after two decades behind bars: