ART = FREEDOM Fighting to End Death By Incarceration
Working collaboratively with a powerful group of former life-sentenced women, we use art to support the fight to free all women and trans lifers in Pennsylvania. From art fundraisers to power campaigns, to creating films and designing billboards seen by tens of thousands. We use art to amplify silenced voices, to destroy stereotypes, and to demand and dream of a world where no women or trans person is serving life!
On the Day They Come Home
“I would love to see it like a parade and everybody is real colorful, you know, bright and smiles. We’re clapping and hugging, and then we see them coming towards the gate, but they're not walking. They're running. They're so happy they're running out. Screaming, “We finally made it!” - Paulette Carrington, collaborating artist.
The interactive installation is part of the national exhibit STAYING POWER by Monument Labat the Village of Arts and Humanities. On the Day They Come Home imagines a future where all women serving life are free.The monument was co-designed by former life sentenced women, and family members of women serving life in PA. The exhibit is up and open to the public till July 10, 2021.
When we consider the idea of “Staying Power,” we first ask, who is missing? Who has been displaced? Who is fighting to help them return? In North Philadelphia, the extreme of displacement is being permanently removed through life imprisonment. There are 200 women and trans people serving life in Pennsylvania. 54 of them are from Philadelphia. When They Come Home...is both a monument, and a memorial. As a monument, the installation celebrates the resiliency and power of former long term and life sentenced women, and those with impacted family, through larger than life portraits, poetry carved out of charred wood, and interactive audio installations that bring their photos to life. Around each woman’s portrait is a wreath of flowers that each symbolize a core tenet of the abolitionist world they advocate for: healing, resistance, resiliency, counter-narratives, and love.
As a memorial, the installation makes those sentenced to die in prison undeniably visible (through the hundreds of animated lights suspended above the sculpture), while commemorating the lives and activism of life-sentenced women who died before getting their freedom. The installation highlights the struggles of the present, while imagining the day when all women serving life will be set free. As a structure, the installation inverts the image of a prison chain-gang by creating a circular and unified formation, that hints at a crown to celebrate their power, and a stage to celebrate the future these women are fighting for. This project is being led by artists Mark Strandquist and Courtney Bowles, in collaboration with Tamika Bell, Paulette Carrington, Starr Granger, Ivy Johnson, and Yvonne Newkirk.
This project was made possible by sooooooo many people!!! Artwork: The project is led by Courtney Bowles and Mark Strandquist in collaboration with Tamika Bell, Paulette Carrington, Starr Granger, Ivy Lenore Johnson, and Yvonne Newkirk Audio editor: Alex Lewis and Rowhome Productions CNC: Kent Watson Data assistance: Let’s Get Free, the Women Lifers Resume Project, and Oren Gur and Michael Hollander of the Data Lab at the District Attorney’s Office of Philadelphia Install and fabrication support: Pernot Hudson Light animation programming: Raven Cole Light design support: Justin Geller Solar power for installation: Holobiont Laboratory Stencil design: Katie Kaplan Stencil cutting: Cooper Wright Takeaway poster design: Jason Killinger Special thanks to Matthew Seamus Callinan, etta cetera, and John Grieg
Wide Open: Life after Life
Working with a powerful group of former juvenile lifers, we partnered with filmmaker Wren Rene to co-create this deeply moving film about what reentry means to those who never knew they were coming home. We hope it hits you in the heart, in the head, that it makes you fight to free other amazing leaders, mothers, caregivers, and artists locked up serving life in PA.
Tamika Bell, Paulette Carrington and Starr Granger were sentenced to die in Pennsylvania when they were teenagers. After decades in prison (over 90 years collectively) Tamika, Paulette and Starr were released after the US Supreme court ruled that sentencing youth to life without parole was unconstitutional. This short film poetically depicts some of what the transition home from prison has looked and felt like. This film is part of a multi-media campaign uplifting women and trans people serving death by incarceration in Pennsylvania called Life Cycles Toward Freedom, a collaboration with Let's Get Free and the Women Lifer's Resume Project and was supported by The Open Society Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Gender Justice Fund and our home, The Village of Arts & Humanities
Billboards Beyond Bars
Working with our partners LETS GET FREE, we co-designed this billboard to support their campaign to push for more commutations of seniors locked up, and to end death by incarceration sentences. The billboard will be up for a year and is situated along Pennsylvania's busiest road (PA Turnpike), sharing these messages and demands with millions of drivers.
The billboard features Tameka, Charamine and Sarita, 3 women serving life in PA. Huge thanks to them (and Tusko Films) for sharing their portraits with us!
Fundraising for Freedom!
To help fundraise for more billboards across PA, we worked with our friend Ivy Johnson, who served decades in PA prisons, and artist Katie Kaplan, to create THISBEAUTIFUL POSTER. Ivy designed the pose and chose the plants to include in the print (#honeysuckle and #marigolds- both plants that Ivy identified as being full of power, beauty and resiliency, all characteristics of folks she knows on the inside).
We've created multiple versions of the poster (included a limited edition set of prints silk screened on paper made from shredded criminal records) and 100% of the proceeds go directly to LETS GET FREE to create more and more billboards in their fight to end death by incarceration. We've already raised thousands! Help us power this campaign!
Made possible by the time, energy and love of so many people, and through the incredibly generous support of the following organizations LETS GET FREE, Women's Lifers Resume Project, Open Society Foundation, Gender Justice Fund, and as always! our home base, the Village of Arts and Humanities