with artist Richard Ross
As stated last week, my mixed media class has been collaborating with Social Fabric Collective (SFC) and artist Richard Ross to create an interactive art piece that brings attention to Juvenile incarceration and solitary confinement. This past week SFC put on a forum for artists, educators, and people who work in the system; together, our intention was to figure out ways to benefit these kids. Social fabric collective is an incredible non-profit organization that brings kids from all walks of life together and teaches them valuable lessons through the medium of photography. This is a truly incredible program and I highly recommend checking it out. Each child is equipped with professional camera equipment and given the guidance to help them discover more about both their identity, and their place in the world. Each semester of the program, director Jamie Smith selects a topic of focus for the kids. This semester’s focus was Juvenile incarceration.
Put on by SFC, this forum included artists, educators, and those who work in the juvenile justice system. Each panel was moderated by artist Richard ross, who uses his skills in photography to highlight the injustices that children in the system face. these photographs were hung in the Luzerne County Courthouse. I had the incredible opportunity to speak on a panel on behalf of my mixed media class’ isolation cell project, pioneered by Richard Ross. This panel was a discussion on the interaction of art, activism, and juvenile incarceration. Other panel members included: student Carlie Antes, professor Nikki Moser, and designer and SFC volunteer Jean Lema. Moderator Richard Ross asked an extremely poignant question; how do we see the isolation cell, how does one introduce this project to a person? Is it a sculpture? Is it interactive, performance art, or simply an act of activism? To answer that, the cell is an all encompassing piece that borrows from all realms, it’s the viewers decision as to how they interact with the piece. It’s simple enough that it pulls you in but it’s also difficult to look at, as it makes you question what your understanding of the piece is. Having the cell in a location that provides access to people from all walks of life makes the piece activism in itself. What’s so important about that aspect is the exposure. The bridge between art and activism is what makes the isolation cell, and Richard Ross’s work in general, so successful and approachable. Art should create a conversation and what a better conversation to have than one about change.
Ask yourself, what would you do if this was your kid. What will YOU do now ?
Featured Image: Nikki Moser
Gallery Photos: Nikki Moser, Richard Ross, Jamie Smith, Dr. Ashley Hartman