Guantanamo Bay detainees exhibit art at the Catamount Arts, Vermont Arts Council

MONTPELIER, VT — The Vermont Spotlight Gallery Spotlight Gallery will display a selection of works from the Guantanamo Bay Art Exhibition Catamount Arts from June 22 to August 21.

Curated by Erin L. Thompson, the critical exhibition features nearly 100 impressive works made by six men detained at the U.S. Military Prison Camp, known as Guantanamo Bay. The six men have been detained there for 20 years without being charged or convicted of a crime.

Guantánamo Bay Art has caused widespread media coverage around the world, leading to a 2017 ban on the removal of artwork from prison. These pieces have been removed before.

The Catamount Arts exhibition will feature works by detained artist Abdul Zahir, a client of St. Johnsbury lawyers Robert Gainsberg and David Slay, who has been a volunteer at Guantanamo Bay Bar Association for more than a decade. Slay and Leslie Gainsberg, Robert’s widow, will join the artist and former detainee Mansour Adaifi in a panel discussion at Catamount Arts on June 26, led by Thompson. Adayfi will participate from Serbia through Zoom.

The exhibition is an expanded version of the earlier show “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo”, whose title refers to a common and touching theme among many of the paintings in the collection. Although the prison camp buildings have windows overlooking the Caribbean Sea, they are covered with tarpaulin. Prisoners saw the water only once, in 2014, when the tarpaulins were removed before a hurricane.

“Anyone who could paint painted the sea,” Adaifi wrote in a New York Times article. “(T) detainees invest their dreams, feelings, hopes and lives in (drawings.) The sea means freedom that no one can control or possess, freedom for all.”

The paintings, drawings and collages of the exhibition (one detainee uses soap as glue) present a variety of experiences, views and symbols, including iconic American landmarks, the mother’s teary eye and a visual representation of the symptoms of a brain injury during interrogation. Some of the art is signed with the numbers used to identify the detainees, not their names, and some are stamped “Approved by US Forces,” which means permission to release lawyers before all prisoners’ artwork is released. are considered property of the United States government, intended to be confiscated and destroyed.

The curators of the exhibition hope that this exhibition will shed light on the ongoing injustices committed against men who have never been convicted or even charged with a crime. “Viewers can decide for themselves whether the art on display at Cathamount’s Fried Family Gallery is dangerous enough to be cut or burned,” Thompson said, “or whether, like its creators, it should be released.”

Special thanks to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve US, Beth Jacob and exhibition manager Sam Monaco.

For information on viewing the exhibition at the Spotlight Gallery, contact Desmond People at [email protected].

Information about the Spotlight Gallery exhibition can be found at

For more information on viewing the exhibition at Catamount Arts, visit

About the Vermont Arts Council

The Vermont Arts Council envisions Vermont, where all people have access to the arts and creativity in their lives, education and communities. The commitment to the arts transforms people, connects us more deeply, energizes the economy, and sustains a vibrant cultural landscape that makes Vermont a great place to live. Since 1965, the Council has been the state’s main provider of funding, advocacy, and arts information in Vermont. Learn more at



Catherine Crowley, Director of Communications at the Vermont Arts Council, [email protected]802-828-5422

VTDigger press releases are provided by submitting organizations and may include a mention of VTDigger staff, family and trustees.

Use our self-service press portal to promote it on VTDigger and reach our entire online readership and email.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.