Special Events & Exhibits
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Many artists visit Alcatraz Island each year, bringing with them exhibits that showcase interpretation of life’s challenges on the Island. These artists present works with themes such as internment, freedom, integrating with society, etc. In 2014 and 2015, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s work visited the Island for eight months showcasing his perspective on human rights, political prisoners and freedom of expression that resonate far beyond Alcatraz Island.
Be sure to check out the following exhibits during your visit to Alcatraz Island:
The Northern California Society of Botanical Artists is delighted to have collaborated with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to create a florilegium, a series of botanical paintings, documenting the plants of The Gardens of Alcatraz. A Florilegium is a collection of botanical drawings and paintings depicting the plants of an area. A Florilegium can be of plants found in a particular garden, such as the Gardens of Alcatraz, or the plants found on a voyage of exploration such as Captain Cook’s voyage to the South Seas in the 18th century. Historically, Florilegiums were created to document plants scientifically long before cameras were invented.
The Alcatraz Florilegium is a collection of 127 paintings and drawings that highlight plants that survived the neglect after the prison closed in 1963, as well as new introductions to the Island.
Exhibition entries were selected for criteria of fine art and science, including composition, drawing, technique, and scientific accuracy. NCalSBA artists visited the Island—some of them, several times—to view and select a plant to depict, with guidance from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy staff. Artists spent between 50 and 150 hours on each piece of art, in a range of media including watercolor, graphite, and colored pencil.
Artists will be available Fridays and Sundays to answer any questions about the collection currently displayed in the Alcatraz Band Practice Room in the prison building.
Please visit the Florilegium Gallery for more detailed information. The collection is also available in a catalogue for purchase in the Island's bookstore.
Display: Alcatraz Landing Interpretive Program
Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing
Before or after your trip to the Island, be sure to walk the twenty stations positioned around the Landing area, including a scale model of Alcatraz Island, civil war cannon, and stories detailing the many facets of life on the Island.
Video: "Alcatraz: Stories From the Rock"
Building 64 Theater (50 yards up the road from the Alcatraz Island dock)
17-minute video presentation of the Island's 200 year history
"Alcatraz: Stories From the Rock" takes visitors on a journey through the Island’s many chapters; its early role as a military fortress, the famous federal penitentiary years, the Indian occupation that altered the course of history, and finally the popular National Recreation Area and wildlife refuge Alcatraz Island is today.
Alcatraz Island stands as a powerful symbol of resolve and change. The film, produced by the Discovery Channel, explores Alcatraz at its begining, as it evolved, and as it stands today, an incredible time capsule of history and human drama.
This video is shown every 30 minutes. For hearing impaired visitors, the video is open captioned; it is also subtitled in Spanish.
Dockside Barracks Building Exhibits - Building 64
Video: “We Hold the Rock”
The occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 by “Indians of All Tribes” changed the course of U.S. and American Indian civil rights and brought worldwide attention to the plight of American Indians. The award winning video/exhibit, “WE HOLD THE ROCK,” produced by the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, is shown continually in the exhibit area behind the main theater known as China Alley.
Display: “Alcatraz and the American Prison Experience”
"Alcatraz and the American Prison Experience," is a major interpretive exhibit, which explains the place of Alcatraz in the evolution of prisons in America from Colonial days to the present. Interesting artifacts from uniforms, to weapons, to products made by inmates, are on display. Produced in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the exhibit also looks at family life on Alcatraz as well as trends in American penology. The exhibit is housed in two historic fortress storerooms in China Alley, the exhibit area behind the main theatre in Building 64.
Earth Day Festivities
Annually in April
Alcatraz Cruises is committed to maintaining the lowest possible impact on the environment. Our Earth Day Festivities highlight our sustainability efforts with interactive exhibits teaching how to make small changes that can have a positive impact on our environment. The event is free and open to the public at Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing and will include music, entertainment and fun for the entire family.
Civil War Living History Day
Annually in September
The National Park Service hosts Living History Day, depicting life on Alcatraz Island during the Civil War, when it was a military fort. The story of the Post on Alcatraces Island, as it was officially known, is largely untold. During Living History Day, visitors have an opportunity to hear live Civil War era music, see period attire worn by expert interpreters and participate in being sworn in to the Union Army. For more information about the role of Alcatraz during the Civil War, please visit the National Park Service. The schedule of events for the day can be found at Friends of Civil War Alcatraz.
Junior Ranger Day
Annually in November
An educational and interactive program encouraging children to enjoy their time in National Parks. Youth activity booklets are provided which correspond to interpretive programs, special ranger walks, and other youth specific activities on the Island. Young people between the ages of 6 and 12 can become Alcatraz Junior Rangers. Booklets are free and available at the Alcatraz dock office. Those who complete the booklet receive an NPS Junior Ranger Badge.
Indigenous People Sunrise Ceremony
Annually in October and November
Please note this is not the standard Alcatraz tour. There are no regular Alcatraz tours offered on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017. All participants in the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering must return to Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing upon conclusion of the ceremony.
The Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering is a commemoration of the 1969-71 occupation of Alcatraz by the “Indians of All Tribes” and is a one day event. This is not the standard Alcatraz Island tour and all areas with the exception of where the ceremony takes place will be closed and inaccessible to the general public.
Host a Private Event on Alcatraz Island
Hosting events can be fun especially when they are located at America's most famous federal prison. Whether you are hosting a corporate or private event, the Island's history and charm offer a unique space with a view unlike any other. Private Events.