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ART | "Thou Art...Will Give..."


America's first penitentiary differed greatly from the prison system we have today. Eastern State Penitentiary, which operated from 1829 to 1971 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, emphasized reform and penance more than punishment. As seen in the photographs by Eric T. Kunsman, the penitentiary today is a ruinous shadow of its former self.

Kunsman, a lecturer in NTID's Visual Communications Studies Department and adjunct professor in RIT's School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, became fascinated with the site and visited 362 times. The resulting photographic essay features 100 large format images of America's first penitentiary, revealing a haunting ruin of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers, as well as reproductions of the warden's logbooks.

An exhibition of this work, "Thou Art . . . Will Give . . .," is currently on view at Dyer Arts Center (Lyndon Baines Johnson Building, NTID, RIT, 52 Lomb Memorial Drive, Henrietta). The show remains on view through January 21, 2015. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and by request. Admission is free. For more information, call 475-6406 or visit

NOTE: The exhibit will be closed Dec 20 - Jan 4. It will reopen on Monday, January 5 at 9 a.m.