In 2021-22, with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, I began a multiyear artist residency at Grand Central Art Center, California State University Fullerton (Santa Ana) with two distinct but related goals, to expand Future IDs as a social impact campaign and to gestate new artistic work, further exploring models for sharing leadership and shifting power and privilege.
Future IDs Art & Justice Leadership Cohort
Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort Members’ Individual Projects
Spring 2022: Through collaboration and self-determination work, the cohort program instills the Future IDs method of cultivating system-impacted changemakers, who are generating meaningful and rewarding programs as part of Future IDs, while developing their own mix of artistic/cultural production skills and justice advocacy skills.
Each member has developed an understanding of how artistic and cultural production could play a major role in the justice work for which they advocate. The following two examples demonstrate how cohort members Emiliano Lopez and Phillip “Rock” Lester have applied this developing knowledge to the community initiatives they are undertaking with the support and mentorship of Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort.
AE Youth Entrepreneurship Training Program
Phillip “Rock” Lester, Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort member
March 2022: Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort member Phillip “Rock” Lester launched the AE Youth Entrepreneurship Training Program with The Reverence Project, an organization he co-founded that provides intervention, support for survivors of crime, community healing, and youth development.
Located in a recently renovated and fully-equipped workshop setting in Watts, the new program merges professional development and life skills work with graphic design, marketing, branding, and manufacturing training for youth.
In speaking about the AE Youth Entrepreneurship Training Program, Lester says, “This is what community engagement and youth development looks like. The Reverence Project is on the move with its new youth entrepreneurial training project. By promoting progress, we eliminate poverty, interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, and make solid steps towards ending mass incarceration.”
A lifelong resident of South Central Los Angeles, Lester is an artist, educator, and owner of The Ambassador Shop of Watts, a local merchandise and tattoo shop that gives young folks opportunities for work experience. His mission as a community activist includes building community-based public safety approaches that don’t rely on the police to intervene and mediate non-violent issues in communities.
Project Protocol Soft Launch
Emiliano Lopez, Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort member
April 2022: As a Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort member, Emiliano Lopez is developing Project Protocol, a computer application for people on parole to rate and review their parole officer without the fear of retaliation. Now in the production phase, once launched, the app will initially serve users in the state of California, eventually building to a nationwide reach.
In speaking about the Project Protocol app, Lopez says, “The dataset from people impacted by the system of correctional control will give those on parole a better understanding of the character of their officers. By knowing they are being rated publicly, the officers will be more conscientious of their accountability to the communities they serve. The app will also raise awareness of the impact of parole in society by bringing this relationship between parole officers and those under supervision out in the open.”
Lopez has brought together an impressive group of technology specialists, arts and justice leaders, and funders to support this work. He brings a wealth of lived and professional experience to this project including serving as the Data and Communications Manager for Initiate Justice Action in Los Angeles and previously working for Guiding Rage into Power, Amity Foundation, and Defy Ventures. He also assisted with justice and cultural projects including: We Rise, Future IDs at Alcatraz, and Unions for All Summit.
We Occupy/We Dis-cover at ASU Art Museum
November 2021: As part of the Art and Justice (ARA 591) seminar design, cohort members and ASU MFA students were invited to create programs for the ASU Art Museum’s 2021 exhibition Undoing Time: Art and the Histories of Incarceration. The Undoing Time exhibition focused on the foundational roots of confinement from philosophical, sociological, theological, and art historical perspectives, to better understand the fact that today’s mass incarceration crisis is centuries in the making, providing an ideal backdrop for our collective investigation.
In response to and as part of the Undoing Time exhibition, our group of 20 community justice scholars and ASU graduate students took over the museum for a full day to unseat, dis-locate, and de-center notions of safety, imprisonment, and control. They worked directly with the Undoing Time exhibiting artists, the museum curators, and me. I filled multiple roles as guide, facilitator, artistic director, and at times, as an artist collaborator.
Together, the Cohort members and ASU students produced twelve artistic interventions, including performances, workshops, conversations, screenings, and a temporary radio station. They also developed educational materials for the exhibition’s travels to Berkeley and New Orleans.
As a sample of the work done, here are three examples produced through collaboration between community justice scholars/learners and graduate students.
How to Open a Prison Store, Bruce Ward and Abigail Galvin
This interactive/performative presentation introduced the bartering system of underground prison economies. By the end of the presentation, participants understood how to start their own prison store for the purposes of generating income, building professional skills for life after parole, and contributing to a strong and engaged community in prison.
Naked Spectre of the Museum: A Candid Conversation, Dr. Luis Garcia and Prashast Kachru
Through the intersection of art and advocacy, community justice scholar Dr. Luis Garcia and artist Prashast Kachru considered the museum space as the location for the exhibition, Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration. Their dialogic and performative intervention transformed the gallery space into a socially engaged platform for social justice. As a point of departure for their conversation, Dr. Garcia referenced the James Baldwin quote, “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them” and Kachru added that in order to heal, we must accept our past, museums included.
(But) We Are SEEDS, Yvette Serrano, Miguel Monzón, Alicia Rojas, Bria Thompson and Jared Peterson
(But) We Are SEEDS honored those that have lost their lives in ICE detention (2003-2021). A Día-De-Los-Muertos-inspired altar commemorated seven children who died in ICE custody. Throughout the day, the names of adults that similarly lost their lives in custody were penned on the pillars that visitors passed as they walked into the museum and a prominent display of the phrase, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we are seeds.” Visitors were given semilla seed packets to encourage them to continue to honor these lost lives after leaving the exhibition.
Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort members participate in School of Art courses
as compensated community justice scholars/learners
January to December 2021: In the Spring semester, I invited seven Future IDs project collaborators to participate in a new special topics undergraduate course Art & Justice (ART 494) in the School of Art at ASU. With support from a 2020 ASU Herberger Institute Research-Building Investment grant, these individuals became the first members of the Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort, which explored ways in which academia can embrace system-impacted leaders as community justice scholars/learners and further their effectiveness as catalysts of social change. These community justice scholars/learners engaged and collaborated with the ASU students enrolled in the course, sharing backgrounds and expertise.
As the cohort members honed their working understanding of the power of artistic production to support justice reform and second chances after incarceration, we realized that we had sufficient foundation to expand the work. I conceived of the next iteration and received a 2021 ASU Institute for Humanities Research Grant to support 10 cohort members participating in a graduate seminar Art & Justice (ARA 591) that I co-led with ASU Art Museum curator Julio César Morales.
Both courses were offered through a hybrid format, meeting in person and/or virtually, accommodating geographical and participation realities of students, justice scholars, and exhibiting artists during the pandemic. The two grants provided funds for stipends, travel, and material expenses related to the cohort members’ participation as community justice scholars/learners. The superimposition of socially engaged art practice onto an institutional setting transformed the classroom space into a workshop/creative laboratory. Knowledge and learning flowed in many directions as we processed readings, research, and guest artist/advocate presentations.
Through meeting weekly for a full academic year, the cohort members were able to develop their leadership skills, encouraging and enabling them to generate meaningful and rewarding programs as part of Future IDs and both ASU courses, while developing their own mix of art and justice advocacy. Together, ASU students and the community justice scholars/learners actively explored how art, civic engagement, and activism could illuminate the complexities of race, democracy, and how we care as a society.
Future IDs + second year graduate studio, MA in Architecture, Yale School of Architecture
November to December 2020: Invited to speak about Future IDs at Alcatraz by Emily Abruzzo, coordinator/faculty for Yale School of Architecture’s second year graduate studio, I negotiated to extend the invitation to 25 Future IDs artists and community partners. Rather than give a presentation, we co-created a social practice experiment that featured dialogue and exchange over several visits. Our work engaged all second-year MA students and faculty in Architecture, as well as students and faculty from the Schools of Art and Law.
The second-year graduate studio introduces designing civic spaces, and examines who (and what) forms communities and how architects can work to serve their neighbors. Specifically, the 2020 graduate students were tasked with designing a facility for an educational, diversionary art program for New Haven youth to replace a recently closed juvenile detention hall.
The work with Yale students and faculty validated the Future IDs participants, many of whom had their first encounter with the criminal justice system as juveniles, and demonstrated their particular and necessary contribution of skills and experience to the conversation.
The work with Yale University is one of several Future IDs programs presented at universities and institutions including San Diego State University, University of Arizona, California College of the Arts, and a range of organizations that support the intersection of art and justice advocacy.
What’s next for Future IDs? A focused dialogue on second chances after incarceration, socially engaged art practice, and the role of academia
October 2020: Operating in a restricted capacity because of the pandemic, seven key individuals met in person at ASU Art Museum for What’s next for Future IDs? A focused dialogue on second chances after incarceration, socially engaged art practice, and the role of academia. The conversation, along with ongoing screenings of two Future IDs at Alcatraz films, was included in the Museum’s Fall 2000 exhibition Pilot Projects: Art. Response. Now.
This physically distanced, hybrid live/virtual discussion involved project collaborators Kirn Kim, Cirese LaBerge, Frantz Beasley and me in dialogue with ASU thought leaders Lois Brown (Center for the Study of Race and Democracy), Kevin Wright (Center for Correctional Solutions), and curator Julio César Morales (ASU Art Museum), exploring how a socially engaged art practice such as Future IDs can partner with academia and engage its power and privilege to support life after incarceration. The audience joined via Zoom. This program formalized a relationship between the Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort and academia.
Reimagining Reentry at Alcatraz broadcast on Division of Rehabilitative Programs Television
April to September 2020: Because the need for hope that is a lifeline for incarcerated people became even more pronounced during the pandemic, when visits were suspended and healthcare was limited, the cohort members and I offered Reimagining Reentry at Alcatraz, a short film about Future IDs at Alcatraz created with A Blade of Grass and Rava Films, to Division of Rehabilitative Programs Television (DRP-TV).
DRP-TV is a secure, multi-channel streaming network that delivers 24/7 rehabilitative television programming to men, women, and others serving time across California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation institutions.
From April 28 to September 8, 2020, the film was broadcast daily to the 37 prisons and camps across California, making it available to an estimated 97,000 incarcerated adults. The film was well received; DRP-TV has invited us to similarly screen our second short film, Future IDs at Alcatraz, created with Rainin Foundation and Jamie DeWolf in summer 2022.
Designs for Future IDs at Avenal State Prison
September 2019 to March 2020: Pre-COVID, the Future IDs creative team and I began planning and pre-production work for an iteration of Future IDs in a working prison in California’s Central Valley.
We partnered with Avenal’s residents and leadership, including Warden Rosemary Ndoh, to plan for a large-scale multifaceted project with artistic components and community programs. Notably, this iteration was designed to include billboards in the prison yards, exhibitions in visiting rooms, and workshops for corrections officers and their children. Partnerships were established with Project Rebound, California State University Fresno, and the ACLU of Northern California.
Work was postponed because of COVID-19. The project and programs potentially will be canceled because it depends upon a visionary warden, and Ndoh has accepted a promotion to a new post in Sacramento.
Before the pandemic, we planned to expand our project as a social impact campaign with multiple iterations beginning at Avenal. Now, as we reassess the social landscape, the Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort members and I are researching and may develop proposals for Future IDs exhibitions at Times Square Arts’ Midnight Moments in New York City and at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.