Art classes and public humanities programs exploring questions, and imagining solutions and alternatives to the problems inherent in the criminal justice system.
Over the course of three 10-week sessions, seven community hub partners offered free arts education courses for youth and collaborative art projects for adults, all of which utilized creative practices to interrogate the criminal justice system in Chicago and the United States: how it was formed and developed, where it has brought us today, and what alternatives could be possible moving forward.
Session 1: Hindsight: Pivot Points of the Past
March 12 – May 7, 2018
What are the foundations of the criminal justice system and how have they led us to the present moment? What would be different today had the notion of justice manifested in other ways? What led the United States to incarcerating more people than any other country in the world? What were the most pivotal points throughout our history, and what would today look like if those moments and decisions had gone differently?
Participating communities gathered for local community art creation and dialogue about what could have gone differently from the moment the founding fathers were considering justice and law for our country. Each hub utilized the artistic process to interrogate the history of incarceration in America. Through arts education courses for youth and community art projects for adults, participants at seven Envisioning Justice Community Hubs used their imaginations and the creative process to reclaim history and acknowledge its pervasive influence.
Session 2: Insight: Where are we now?
June 18 – September 14, 2018
After having explored the foundations of the American criminal justice system, we turned our focus to the present moment. What does incarceration mean today? Why does it happen, and to whom? How are communities affected by incarceration on a daily basis? How does it frame people’s worldviews, and what determines how those worldviews are shaped? What are the processes and systems that perpetuate old biases, and how can we disrupt these in real time?
Participating communities gathered for local community art creation and dialogue about these questions and more. Through arts education courses for youth and community art projects for adults, participants at seven Envisioning Justice Community Hubs used creative risk-taking, collaboration, and artistic-process skills to examine the ways that we are all affected by the criminal justice system today, and to imagine and demonstrate opportunities to make a difference in the present moment. Each hub created a hyper-local archive by collecting items, documents, and video that create a snapshot of where that community stands in relation to the criminal justice system at this moment in time.
Session 3: Foresight: How Does a Just Future Look, Sound, and Feel?
November 12, 2018 – February 4, 2019
What does justice really mean? What would be possible if we truly reimagined the way we approach this concept as a society, and the way we implement processes to achieve it? How would our communities function differently? What would they look like? Sound like? Feel like? What would it mean to place community health and well-being at the forefront of all policies, laws, and regulations?
Using the strong foundations of creative thinking, teamwork, positive risk-taking, and artistic process that were explored throughout the past two Envisioning Justice Arts Programming sessions, youth and adults alike created works that demonstrated the possibilities for a brighter and more just future. Youth courses continued to use imaginative processes to generate new ideas and to create work that draw forth these ideas, and Community Art Projects focused on creating new collaborative works that show us how society could look, sound, and function if we unbind ourselves from the systems and structures of the past.
Public Humanities Programs
In addition to the arts classes, the community hubs partners hosted a series of community discussions meant to promote critical, self-reflective dialogues about aspects of the criminal justice system that impact their communities. Over the course of each 10-week session, each hub hosted two small-scale events and one large-scale event meant to delve into contemporary policies and envision solutions to problems that arise from those policies.
The first program of each session asked community members “How did we get here?” – focusing on the history of policies and how they shape the contemporary moment. The second program asked those same community members to re-imagine the current system and ask “Where do we go from here?” The large-scale program that capped off each 10-week session invited community members to share these visions with people from outside their neighborhood for a critical look at how people might best be able to enact the changes they’d like to see.
Community Art Projects
This was an opportunity for Chicagoans to get hands-on experience making art that has impact.
Led by professional artists, participants worked together to create a compelling, dynamic art project that were shared with the community and the public at an Open House at the end of each session.