Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana

Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana

Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University

The Life Quilt, 2018.*

January 16, 2019
Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana
January 19–July 6, 2019
Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University
Woldenberg Art Center
New Orleans, Louisiana 70118
United States
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Per(Sister) opening day symposium: January 19, 2–8pm
Sin by Silence, Mothering Inside film screenings: January 19, 7–9pm
Mass Incarceration and the Law panel: February 2, 1–3pm
Formerly Incarcerated for the Formerly Incarcerated panel: February 9, 12–3pm
Per(Sister) in Song: March 22, 6–8pm
Per(Sister) in Dance: March 23, 12–2pm
The House I Live In film screening: April 23, 7–9pm
PerSisters talk, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra show: May 11, 12–3pm
Changemakers panel and musical performance: June 8, 12–3pm
Juneteenth celebration: June 19, 6–8pm 

All events free and open to the public 

Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana. Opening January 19, 2019, with a scheduled run through July 6, 2019, this breakthrough exhibition will explore one of the most critical issues facing our nation today through the lens of a population too often overlooked.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, nationwide, women’s state prison populations have grown 834% over the past forty years — with Louisiana currently having the nineteenth-highest rate of incarcerated women in the world. "Per(Sister)" aims to look beyond the statistics and put a face, a name, and a story to a dehumanizing number. The exhibition presents works from more than 30 artists across America (including New Orleans’ own MaPó Kinnord, Lee Diegaard, L. Kasimu Harris, Devin Reynolds, Jackie Sumell, Carl Joe Williams, and Cherice Harrison-Nelson, among others) who created new pieces based on the diverse stories of 30 formerly and currently incarcerated women (Persisters) as interviewed by museum staff in partnership with consultants Syrita Steib-Martin and Dolfinette Martin, and with the support of organizations such as Operation Restoration and Women with a Vision, Inc.

Per(Sister) seeks to educate and build awareness of the crucial situations arising before, during, and after incarceration. Stories of loss, hope, despair, survival, triumph, and persistence are shared in a variety of forms demonstrating simultaneously the universal struggles faced by communities impacted by incarceration and the personal resiliency of each woman featured. The exhibition is divided into four sections that explore the root causes of female incarceration, the impact of incarcerating mothers, the physical and behavioral toll of incarceration, and the challenges and opportunities for reentry for formerly incarcerated women. These four themes bring together more than 30 works–including voice recordings, photographic portraits, informative illustrations, sculptures, paintings, songs, and performances–and serve as an entry point into each woman’s story, creating a cohesive exhibition that incorporates the voices of the persisters and creatives alike while highlighting powerful statistics collected from the Vera Institute of Justice, Prison Policy Initiative, The Sentencing Project, the Bureau of Justice Statistics and more.

Intended as a way to challenge misconceptions and uninformed assumptions, Per(Sister) aims to use art as a safe vehicle for communicating the myriad issues as identified and expressed by the women. By providing a multitude of access points to the stories of incarcerated women, including a participatory garden constructed by artist Jackie Sumell among other interactive elements, the exhibition invites everyone to engage with the show and find common ground.

“For a museum looking to address social justice issues through the lens of the arts as Newcomb does, and being aware of Louisiana’s recent reputation as the ‘incarceration capital of the world,’ it seems only reasonable to look into the prison industrial complex given that it is one of the most critical aspects affecting our immediate communities,” said museum director Monica Ramirez-Montagut. “The objective of this art exhibition is to informally educate our students and museum visitors on the issues that have made our state infamous and address the tremendous lack of awareness and basic knowledge on the human experience of the justice system.”

“It’s important that this show is focusing on women,” said Syrita Steib-Martin, PerSister and Co-Executive Director of Operation Restoration, “if we never focus on just the woman, her as an individual, the problem is never solved. I find that a lot of times, women are often pushed to the wayside for every other entity that exists outside of themselves. Women make the world go ‘round, women raise children, women change hearts, souls and minds with compassion and being caregivers. But nobody ever deals with them in that same manner. But I think it just starts with fixing women, you know? If you fix women, women will fix the world.”

*Image above: The Life Quilt, 2018, features the names of 107 women serving life sentences in 2017 in Louisiana complied by Selina Anderson of the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women (LCIW) Drama Club. The names were hand-beaded by members of the following Black Masking Indian groups: Golden Feather Hunters, Creole Osceola, Washitaw Nation, Wild Magnolias, Cheyenne Hunters, Young Masai Hunters; the center portrait created by Brandan "BMike" Odums features the late Mary Turner, Founding LCIW Drama Club member and "Lifer"; and the entire piece is sewn together by Louise Mouton Johnson. The Life Quilt was produced by The Graduates, co-created and co-sponsored by ArtSpot Productions and Kumbuka African Drum & Dance Collective. At the time of its creation, The Graduates were Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artist as Activist Fellows; and The Life Quilt, along with a Louisiana tour of their performance Won’t Bow Down! were supported in part by grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Alternate ROOTS Partners in Action Program, made possible by support from Nathan Cummings Foundation, Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Surdna Foundation. Image courtesy of the Newcomb Art Museum.

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Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University
January 16, 2019

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