More - Art and Criminal Justice Reform

Art as a driver of social change is something I'm always thinking about - and following on my last post about the new Art for Justice Fund, I was so excited to learn about the new temporary mural, See Her, at 808 Tremont Street in Roxbury (Boston). The wall, which shares a parking lot with the Peoples Baptist Church, used to be covered in graffiti - and it's highly visible from the street. Thousands of people drive and walk past it every day.

The work was created by activist artist Ann Lewis (love her work) in collaboration with residents at local reentry facility for incarcerated women run by Community Resources for Justice, and produced by Now + There. 

  See Her  in progress 

See Her in progress 

In creating the mural, Ann participated in a workshop with with the women, who were serving the final 6 months of a prison sentence, at Community Resources for Justice. More on the workshop here. 

They produced collages that Ann drew from to inform the composition of the mural. She wanted to integrate their perspective into the piece - as opposed to creating the work in a vacuum with a singular point of view. 

For me that's what this piece is about - shifting perspective. The viewer sees the subject of the piece, which reminds her that the artist has integrated her unique point of view with those of her collaborators. It also gives perspective to how we see former prisoners as they reenter society. 

Ann said this about the project: "...many people DO immediately judge an individual who has gone to prison... and we don’t ask for any context... We don’t ask if that crime was committed in self-defense because your husband was abusing you and you retaliated. We don’t ask if you’ve been trapped in generational poverty and were trying to improve your financial circumstances if you’ve been convicted of fraud or selling drugs. Instead we automatically perceive those who have been part of the criminal justice system as inherently immoral, or dishonest, or malicious. And that’s just not the case."

In terms of impact - Now + There is selling a limited edition print related to the mural - a portion of the proceeds will go to Community Resources for Justice to support their reentry programs. All of the women that participated in the project were paid for their time. 

I look forward to seeing Boston's reaction to this piece and to reporting back with more impact metrics.