States of Incarceration is a multi-media traveling exhibition on the history and future of mass incarceration in the United States.  It was developed by faculty and students at twenty different universities across the country and was designed by the Brooklyn-based architecture firm Matter Practice with graphic designers Pure+Applied.  The exhibition will travel to the home cities of each of the contributing universities from April 2016 – October 2018, with stops at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, CA; the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, NC; the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans and the Tang Teaching Museum in Saratoga Springs.  

Brown University’s contribution to this traveling exhibition came out of History Professor Amy Remensnyder’s “Locked Up: A History of Prison and Captivity,” taught both at Brown and at the Adult Correctional Institution in Cranston in the fall of 2015.  Brown’s exhibition materials were developed by a curatorial committee of undergraduate students.  The exhibition comprises close to twenty panels on incarceration developed by students around the country; they tell personal stories, give historical context, analyze particular prisons, and reveal the human face of this national trauma.

In addition to the States of Incarceration panels, the Rhode Island exhibition includes local artwork that addresses the issue of mass incarceration.  A collection of paintings and a series of screen-printed T-shirts made by youth in the Rhode Island Training School and by Providence youth artists was contributed by AS220, whose youth program works to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.  Rhode Islanders Sponsoring Education (RISE) lent sixteen portraits of the students in this year’s graduating class, each of whom has a parent who is currently or has recently been incarcerated; these students receive financial support from the organization to attend private or parochial schools in the state (photographer: Peter Goldberg).  Denali Tiller is showing a selection of powerful film stills from her documentary, Sons and Daughters of the Incarcerated, which follows the lives of children in Rhode Island with incarcerated parents.  The exhibition also includes artwork by Jordan Seaberry from “The Violences Project,” a cycle of paintings that highlight “the epidemic of deadly violence in our cities” and a selection of literary magazines that were produced in the 1980s by female inmates at the Department of Corrections’ Women’s Facilities under the direction of long-time warden Roberta Richman.

None of this would be possible without Steven Pennell, the URI Providence Campus Coordinator of Urban Arts and Culture and the curator of the gallery in which this exhibition is installed.  Thank you, Steven.  And thanks to the sponsors of this exhibition: States of Incarceration, the Humanities Action Lab, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Be a part of the conversation about the issues raised by this exhibition on Twitter at #StatesofIncarceration and contribute your own views of mass incarceration with this online poll.

Exhibition Contributors

Brown’s Curatorial Committee includes Miranda Norlin, Katherine Lamb, Rhea Stark, Bernadette Stadler, Charlotte Bilski, Erin Cohee, Thea Belay, Sarah Atkinson, Nicole King, Emily Petrie, Jessica Harper, Keiko Oki, M. Camila Arbelaez, Iris Cronin, Margot Witte, Emma Scott, Kia Sadahiro, Michael Schwartz, Marguerite Kemp-Sherman, Camille Cochin de Billy, Becca Gilbert, Emily Breuer, Emma Schrager, Caroline Orr, Jessica Urrutia, Nico Sedivy and Aileen Seo.

The Humanities Action Lab (HAL), a collaboration of 20 universities led by The New School in New York, works with issue-based organizations and public spaces to foster new public dialogue on contested social issues through public humanities projects that explore shared global concerns.  Universities partnering in States of Incarceration include Arizona State University, Brown University, DePaul University, Duke University, Indiana University, ­Purdue University Indianapolis, Northeastern University, Parsons Paris, Rutgers University—­Newark, Rutgers University—­New Brunswick, Skidmore College, The New School, University of California, Riverside, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Miami, University of Minnesota, University of New Orleans, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of Texas at Austin, and Vanderbilt University. HAL was launched in 2012 and received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Denali Stiller (Director | Producer) was named one of 110 “filmmakers to watch” by Variety Magazine in 2015. She has directed and produced several short films and animations. In 2013, Denali directed a short film, which won runner up for best film at the Albuquerque 48 Hour Film Festival. Her thesis film at Rhode Island School of Design was shortlisted for the BAFTA Student Film Awards and was broadcast on Rhode Island PBS. Sons and Daughters of the Incarcerated is an extension of her thesis film and her feature filmmaking debut. Denali lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.

Born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, Jordan Seaberry became deeply involved in the Providence social justice community, working to organize around prisoners’ rights, helping to pass multiple criminal justice reform milestones including the “Unshackling Pregnant Prisoners” Bill, Probation Violation Reform, and the passage of last year’s statewide “Comprehensive Community-Police Relations Act.” He maintains a painting studio in Providence, and has displayed works at institutions such as Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, the Skowhegan School of Painting, as well as galleries in Chicago, Providence, and New York City.

Roberta Richman worked for the Department of Corrections for 33 years before she retired in 2012. Her career began in 1979 with a position as the Administrator of Arts In Corrections, a federally funded program, where her commitment to the importance of providing arts in prison was established.  In sequence, she was appointed Administrator of Educational Services, of Correctional Industries, and in 1991, was named Warden of the Women’s Prison. She served her last 11 years as Assistant Director in charge of Rehabilitative Services for all prison facilities. Throughout her tenure at the ACI she promoted the arts wherever possible. Brown University undergraduates filled the needs when funding for the arts was no longer available. The program called SPACE, through the Swearer Center, began in 1991 and continues today offering a wide variety of arts programs to inmates.

Rhode Islanders Supporting Education (RISE) works to break the cycle of poverty, crime and addiction by investing in the educational success of children with incarcerated parents.  Through scholarships, mentoring, learning support and family advocacy we help families feel strong and children thrive regardless of their circumstances.

AS220 is an artist-run organization committed to providing an unjuried and uncensored forum for the arts. AS220 offers artists opportunities to live, work, exhibit and/or perform in its facilities, which include several rotating gallery spaces, a performance stage, a black-box theater, a print shop, a darkroom and media arts lab, a fabrication and electronics lab, a dance studio, a youth program focusing on youth under state care and in the juvenile detention facilities, four dozen affordable live/work studios for artists, and a bar and restaurant. AS220’s facilities and services are available to any artist who needs a place to exhibit, perform, or create original work and its classes and public-access studios are among the most affordable in the nation.

The URI College of Education and Professional Development Urban Arts and Culture Program 

The Urban Arts and Culture Program at URI Providence Campus presents a diverse spectrum of visual and performing arts programming (Music, Theatre, Dance and Film). The programs explore and raise public awareness about topical issues in the urban community setting, and also celebrate cultural diversity in order to promote understanding and teach nonviolence. The program offers opportunities to present the work of URI students, staff, faculty and alumni and that of the general public, and to introduce the work of local and international professional visual and performing artists to an audience, some of whom do not regularly attend arts events. The programs foster interdisciplinary learning and collaboration among many departments and academic disciplines within the university; it also brings together collaborative partners from community social service agencies, arts institutions, and area schools to expand the educational resources. The URI Urban Arts and Culture Program is a member of Gallery Night Providence and includes monthly exhibits and performance events in the1st and 2nd floor lobby Galleries and the Paff Auditorium.