Michigan State University's Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum is currently featuring two lead exhibitions centering on the issues created by mass incarceration in the United States.
The exhibitions address mass incarceration from the perspective of currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, with pieces focusing heavily on the root causes of incarceration and the struggles that individuals face within the prison system.
“Some of these works are reflecting on that mass incarceration system; some of the works, people are remembering pieces and parts of their lives — the good times and the bad times in their lives; some of them are escaping in different ways," Broad Museum Director of Education Michelle Word said. "Here, we see these different folks using art in a wellness space, using art in an empowerment space. But then, us as viewers, we have this opportunity to look at these individuals as just that — individuals, as what they actually are, right? Our brothers, our sisters, our moms, our dads, our neighbors, people from our communities. And I think that’s what’s really amazing to me about seeing this work.”
The Free Your Mind: Art and Incarceration in Michigan exhibition contains art by current and former inmates inspired by four key topics: the length of Michigan’s prison sentences as well as overcrowding concerns, the impact of incarceration on women, youth incarceration and the dangers of COVID-19 for inmates.
It combines work from three major projects, all involving free artists collaborating with incarcerated artists.
The other lead exhibition, Per(sister): Incarcerated Women of the United States, explores the root causes of mass incarceration in the United States through art inspired by the interviews of 30 formerly incarcerated women of Louisiana.
The artwork seeks to raise awareness of crucial issues that impact women before, during and after incarceration through stories “of loss, hope, despair, survival, triumph, and persistence.”
The pieces provide powerful and honest depictions of incarcerated life for American citizens through a wide variety of mediums.
“You know, we really hope that through looking at mass incarceration through art, that we're able to encourage folks to, you know, stand up and be part of a larger conversation,” Word explained.
“I think that it's really good to be able to really see a side of what's not kind of talked about in society in terms of the high incarceration rates specifically among people of color and I think that's really powerful," political science and public policy sophomore Devin Woodruff said. "Especially to see people's stories and to see it on art, and it really allows you to see a different point of view that I think sometimes is missed."
Both of the exhibitions will be on display until Dec. 12, 2021. The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum is open on Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offers free admission to the public.
Tickets are available both at the visitor services desk and online in advance. Visitors are required to wear a mask.
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