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September 9-12, 2021   Javits Center

Panel: Representation, Body Politics, and Mass Incarceration

Friday, March 6, 2020 4:00 PM

Armory Live Theater on Pier 94

Moderated by Renuka Sawhney (Senior Development Associate at the Vera Institute of Justice). Participants include Dread Scott (artist), Helena Huang (Project Director at the Art for Justice Fund), Nicole R. Fleetwood (Professor of American Studies and Art History at Rutgers University), and Jesse Krimes (artist and Art for Justice Fellow).

The incarcerated carry the historical burden of the trauma of slavery and the stigma of the outsider, and, after decades of mass incarceration, they remain hidden from the public. If artistic representation offers the possibility of being seen, then how does the representation by and of incarcerated people disrupt the political and cultural power of mass incarceration? How can this moment of opportunity for justice reform impact the way artists and institutions perceive their roles in reflecting the contemporary black American experience?

Renuka Sawhney
Renuka is a senior development associate at the Vera Institute of Justice. She manages donor cultivation events and the annual Gala, in addition to assisting with other development functions as needed. Previously, Renuka worked for Groundswell Community Mural Project, The Bronx Museum, and Jonah Bokaer Choreography. In 2011 Renuka founded Hive.org, an online publication platform featuring essays by artists and academics. From 2006 to 2012, Renuka worked as director of The Guild, an art gallery in New York exhibiting South Asian contemporary art. Renuka is a graduate of NJIT/Rutgers University, with an MA in management and finance.

Dread Scott
Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. His work is exhibited across the US and internationally. In 1989, his art became the center of national controversy over its transgressive use of the American flag, while he was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dread became part of a landmark Supreme Court case when he and others defied the new law by burning flags on the steps of the US capitol. Dread's studio is now based in Brooklyn.
His work has been included in exhibitions at MoMA PS1 and Jack Shainman Gallery, both in New York, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Gallery MOMO in Cape Town, South Africa, and is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum, both in New York. His performances have been presented at Brooklyn Academy of Music, and on the streets of Harlem, New York. He is a 2019 Open Society Foundations Soros Equality Fellow, and has received grants and fellowships from United States Artists and Creative Capital Foundation.
In 2019, he presented Slave Rebellion Reenactment, a community engaged project that reenacted the largest rebellion of enslaved people in US history. The project was featured in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, Amanpour on CNN, and highlighted by artnet as one of the most important artworks of the decade.

Helena Huang
Helena Huang is project director for the Art for Justice Fund. Established by art philanthropist Agnes Gund, and administered by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the $100 million five-year fund is dedicated to ending mass incarceration in the United States through criminal justice grants in support of high-impact programs in the justice sector and the arts. The Ford Foundation is responsible for the fund’s grant-making strategy, which focuses on bail reform, sentencing reform, reducing structural barriers to reentry for people coming home from prison, and narrative change through art.
Huang has held leadership positions in both the foundation and advocacy world. She was a program manager for two national philanthropies for nearly 10 years: at the Open Society Foundation (1997–2002) and the JEHT Foundation (2002–06) where she worked in support of grassroots advocacy, fellowship programs, and public/private partnerships addressing criminal justice reform. Later, she co-founded and directed Oregon Voice, a state civic engagement organization that helped to pass the first automatic voter registration law in a US state. Before joining Ford in 2017, Helena served as senior director of Philanthropy and Communications for the State Voices Network in Washington, DC, where she raised funds for state-based policy advocacy campaigns.
Helena holds an MPA from the Columbia School of International Affairs, and a BA from Cornell University.

Nicole R. Fleetwood
Nicole R. Fleetwood is a writer, curator, and professor of American Studies and Art History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Her books are Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (2020), On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination (2015), and Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness (2011). Her articles appear in scholarly journals, art catalogues, and edited anthologies. She is co-editor of Aperture magazine’s “Prison Nation,” a special issue focusing on photography’s role in documenting mass incarceration. Fleetwood has co-curated exhibitions on art and mass incarceration at MoMA PS1, New York; Aperture Foundation, New York; Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick; New Brunswick Free Public Library; Andrew Freedman Home, New York; University of Maryland Baltimore County; and Cleveland Public Library. Her work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, American Council for Learned Societies, Whiting Foundation, Schomburg Center for Scholars-in-Residence, New Jersey Council for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Jesse Krimes
Jesse Krimes is a Philadelphia-based artist whose work explores how contemporary media shapes or reinforces societal mechanisms of power and control. While serving a six-year prison sentence, he produced numerous bodies of work, established prison art programs, and worked collaboratively with his peers. After Krimes’s release in 2014, he co-founded Right of Return USA in partnership with the Soze Agency, the first national fellowship dedicated to supporting formerly incarcerated artists. Krimes’ work has been exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo, International Red Cross Museum, Zimmerli Museum, and Aperture Gallery, among other venues. His work will be included in shows at MoMA PS1 and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2020. He has received public commissions from Amnesty International, Mural Arts Philadelphia, and Eastern State Penitentiary. Krimes was awarded fellowships from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (Artist as Activist Fellowship), the Independence Foundation, the Art For Justice Fund, and Creative Capital. His work is a part of the Agnes Gund Collection and he is represented by Malin Gallery in New York. In addition to his independent practice, he co-curated HBO’s O.G. exhibition featuring formerly incarcerated artists, and successfully led a class-action lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase for their predatory practice of charging people released from federal prison exorbitant fees.

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