2018

Prison Neighborhood Arts Project

Cultural Event Documentation, Exhibition Design

Prison Neighborhood Arts Project

“A lot of people don’t think about how long-term sentencing creates a long-term struggle for freedom and a long-term loss in communities.” -Damon Locks

Prison Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP)  is a visual arts and humanities project that connects teaching artists and scholars to men at Stateville Maximum Security Prison through classes, workshops and guest lectures. Classes offered include subjects ranging from poetry, visual arts, and film study to political theory, social studies, and history. Classes are held once a week, on a 14 week semester schedule. Each course results in finished projects—visual art, creative writing and critical essays—with specific audiences and neighborhoods in mind.

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Prison Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP) is a visual arts and humanities project that connects teaching artists and scholars to men at Stateville Maximum Security Prison through classes, workshops and guest lectures. Classes offered include subjects ranging from poetry, visual arts, and film study to political theory, social studies, and history. Classes are held once a week, on a 14 week semester schedule. Each course results in finished projects—visual art, creative writing and critical essays—with specific audiences and neighborhoods in mind.

This was a project that enabled us to be involved with the issue of criminal justice reform. PNAP was preparing to have an art exhibition and we were invited to document the exhibition opening and programming for The Long Term exhibition. An installation of writers and members of the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project that created a series of thematic works around long-term sentencing policies and the other long terms they produce: long-term struggles for freedom, long-term loss in communities, and long-term relationships behind the prison wall. The projects emerged out of collaborative work at Stateville prison, where people are serving extraordinarily long prison terms (60, 70, and 80 years), often for crimes for which they would have already been released, had they been sentenced 30 years earlier, or in a different country. We were also requested to coordinate and design the layout for the exhibition that also consisted of communicating with the artists and curators along with assisting with the installation of the works of art.

Exhibition design is in essence the truest form of collaboration between designers and curators for an exhibit. Working on the exhibition design for the Long Term involved brainstorming and troubleshooting with the curators, Sarah Ross and Damon Locks.

The Exhibition showcased a several two dimensional drawings and paintings by over 20 incarcerated inmates, risograph prints from 10 Chicago based artists, a hand-drawn animation, and 8 miniature survival kits which were created from found materials inside the prisons. With the amount of work to display and the limited physical space of the gallery, we had to formulate plans and strategies to organize an efficient method to display all of the artwork. We were challenged by having to show the artwork so that visitors could follow one cohesive storyline and fully understand what they were observing. In particular, the hand-drawn animation needed to be projected at a large scale and presented several obstacles that we had to overcome because of space and lighting circumstances. After successfully troubleshooting we were able collectively come up with a solution that resulted in meeting our technical needs and met the requirements for what we envisioned for our design layout. As a result, the animation was able to naturally lead the visitor to the survival kits that sat upon a shelf designed precisely for the size of the miniatures that hung at eye level and placed equidistantly apart. The appearance of the display referenced back to the act of solitary confinement without being blunt and also allowed for a slow read and examination of each object.

Designing and documenting for this exhibition, we were able to learn more about the experiences,
perspectives, creativity, and the human capital that is lost because of the criminal justice system. Each artifact was a story and evidence to the injustices taking place to so many people directly and to the families that suffer indirectly. We became aware of the challenges of dismantling and advocating for change and the activists that have taken on the fight for improvement to be made to how our country punishes.

The images that were captured of the exhibition were utilized for marketing collateral and for their annual and grant reports.