Tehachapi: A Unique Art Project at a California Correctional Institution

In October 2019, French artist JR created a one-of-a-kind art activation within the walls of California Correctional Institution: Tehachapi in Southern California – a maximum security 4 facility.

For the Tehachapi project, JR photographed portraits of the 48 people from above to create a sense of depth. He divided the images into 338 paper strips, each about 36 feet long, and worked with those who were photographed to glue the strips to the ground to assemble the mural.

JR and his team captured the portraits and stories of former and currently incarcerated citizens that are keenly focused on rehabilitation, as well as some of the prison staff, and pasted them with their help, as a large team, on the recreation space within

“It’s about the process, not just about the image,” JR said. “I wanted to gather, through the excuse of art, people that normally don’t talk to each other. Suddenly, guards were talking to inmates, inmates were talking to each other. There was a lot of sense of community because of the creation of this piece.”

The wheat pasting of 338 strips of paper was completed in a few hours thanks to the help of all the participants in the project, and more incarcerated men and staff, working together with JR’s team.  Within a few days, due to the Californian weather, the mural had disintegrated.

The final installation shot was taken from a birds-eye view with a drone.

To listen to every participants’ stories, download the free JR:murals app for iPhone, here, and Android, here.