Freedom & Captivity is a state-wide public humanities initiative during Fall 2021 to bring critical perspectives from the humanities to the interrogation of incarceration. Recognizing that mass incarceration is fueled by racism and profit-generating mechanisms that tear apart communities and families, the project offers opportunities for public engagement about imagining prison abolition and the redirection of resources toward community investments, the repair of racial and gender injustice, intergenerational trauma, and eldercare for the aging population in Maine’s prisons. The project, which includes art exhibitions, workshops, webinars, a podcast, research and creative production, public education materials, and linked courses taught across Maine’s campuses, aims to cultivate opportunities for imagining freedom in an abolitionist society. The project is conceived with the participation of people in Maine directly impacted by the carceral system.
F&C Advisory Board
Catherine Besteman – Coordinator, Freedom & Captivity, Colby College Al Cleveland, Maine Youth Justice Jan Collins, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition Jon Courtney, Portland Museum of Art Films Lelia DeAndrade, Maine Community Foundation Glen Gallick, People First Portland Elizabeth Jabar, Colby College qainat khan, ACLU-Maine Joseph Jackson, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition Daniel Minter, Indigo Arts Alliance Marcia Minter, Indigo Arts Alliance Chris Newell, Abbe Museum Brian Pitman, University of Maine Mara Sanchez, University of Southern Maine Julie Poitras Santos, Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA Amber Tierney, University of Maine Cait Vaughan, harm reduction advocate Jill Ward, Maine Center for Juvenile Policy and Law
Administrative support for Freedom & Captivity was provided by Geneviève Beaudoin, Content Manager. Colby College research assistants Emma Terwilliger, Matt Gurgiolo, and Reagan Dennis contributed background research.
What does abolition look like, sound like, feel like? Art on Abolition attempts to capture the sensorial qualities of abolitionist feelings, yearnings, visions and imaginings. If we take abolition to mean liberation, thoughtful and reparative responses to harm, investments in safe and healthy communities, a rejection of cruelty, and an embrace of love—what does that look like, sound like, feel like?
Artists from across the country responded to our national open call to share their visions. This call garnered submissions from incarcerated artists, formerly incarcerated artists, and artists who have never been incarcerated. The works range across many genres: drawing, painting, collage, textiles, photography, film and video, performance, music and audio, poetry and spoken word, prose, sculpture. Some of the artists are self-taught; some are working in carceral environments with limited or no access to art supplies; and others are established artists with a studio practice and institutional support. The texts accompanying each piece vary, depending on how the work arrived, our ability to communicate with the artist, and the constraints under which the work was produced and sent to us. The resulting exhibition reflects that abolition, while expressly about the goal of ending incarceration, also entails a diversity of viewpoints about how to get there and what that goal will look like.
The exhibition is organized into four themes: History and New Futures; Protest and Revolution; Finding Voice, Power, Joy; Liberation.
The art included in History and New Futures reflect how history lives in the present, visibly and invisibly, memorialized in public and disappeared into private memories. Some of the works in this theme honor events, people, and structures of feeling that hover at the underside of memory and breathe life into possibilities for future transformations. Other artists took inspiration from historical struggles for liberation, where an abolitionist future pays homage to heroic revolutionaries in the past. Lastly, there are artistic reflections situated in an abolitionist future, as a place from which to look back and reflect on carceral histories. This future vantage point suggests an incredulity about the cruelty and ignorance of the damages of punitive carcerality.
The contemporary abolitionist movement is part of a long struggle for freedom and liberation from carceral systems created to support white supremacy, colonialism, and inequality. The artistic reflections in Protest and Revolution show how art that documents and celebratesthese struggles can motivate and clarify, embolden and enrage, and offer inspiration for revolutionary change. Abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore famously said, “Abolition requires that we change one thing, which is everything.” The works in this section embrace radical change: from protest posters that demand transformational change, to a call for an entirely different political structure, to an emphatic self-portrait about being silent no more, to references to the transformative power of fire. Abolition won’t happen without dramatic transformation.
Carcerality silences, disappears, and destroys. Abolition validates, repairs, and liberates. In addition to tearing down structures of racism, inequality, and enforced cruelty, abolition is also about building new ways of living together and seeing each other. Finding Voice, Power, Joy celebrates the power of art for finding voice – to challenge oppression, express joy, build community and solidarity, and claim shared humanity. The submissions grouped in this theme allow those who have been hidden through incarceration to become visible through intimate portraits; they demand that we look and see and feel; they evade the objectifying gaze of surveillance technologies; and they gesture toward the importance of recognizing mutual humanity as the basic starting point for transformative change.
The final theme, Liberation, concludes the exhibition with visions of what liberation looks like, sounds like, moves like, and feels like. Art offers unique access to liberation’s sensoria, exhibited here in fantasy visions and soundwaves, movement and lyricism, narrative and storytelling. The artists featured here draw on the lived experience of incarceration, the radical imagination of freedom, and futurist visions to help us see, hear, and feel liberation.
While exploring Art on Abolition, Freedom & Captivity urges audiences to consider ways to forge new connections with others and blaze a trail towards rehabilitation from the carceral state.
Freedom & Captivity is a coalition of arts institutions, community organizations, advocacy and support groups for incarcerated and previously incarcerated people, criminal justice reform experts, abolitionists, and scholars who are offering a roster of coordinated activities events during Fall 2021 about incarceration, decarceration, and abolitionist visions in Maine.
Abbe Museum ACLU of Maine Atlantic Black Box Project Beyond Prisons Podcast Belfast Creative Coalition The Cannery at South Penobscot Center for the Arts and Humanities, Colby College Colby College Museum of Art Creative Portland De-ICE Maine Downeast Restorative Justice Emery Community Arts Center Engine First Amendment Museum Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project Indigo Arts Alliance Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA Justice Policy Program, University of Southern Maine Lunder Institute of American Art Maine Arts Journal Maine Historical Society Maine Humanities Council Maine Inside Out Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition Maine State Archives Maine State Library Maine State Museum Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Maine Youth Justice Oak Institute for Human Rights, Colby College Opportunity Scholars Palaver Strings Penobscot County Jail Storytelling Project Portland Media Center Portland Museum of Art Portland Public Library Portland Stage Prison Education Partnership Railroad Square Scholars Strategy Network of Maine Southern Maine Workers’ Center SPACE SPEEDWELL Projects The Strand Ticonic Arts TUG Collective UMVA Gallery University of New England Art Gallery Waterville Creates
And faculty at Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Maine College of Art, University of Southern Maine, University of Maine School of Law, University of Maine-Augusta, University of Maine-Farmington, University of Maine-Orono.
We are grateful to our funders: Colby College, Creative Portland, Crewe Foundation, Maine Humanities Council, Portland Media Center, Scholars Strategy Network, SPACE, and the University of New Hampshire Public Humanities Center.
F&C Board Bios
Catherine Besteman teaches Anthropology at Colby College and studies racism, immigration/mobility, inequality, and social transformation. A 2012 Guggenheim Fellow, she has also recently received fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies, and in 2020 received the Distinguished Achievement Award for the Critical Study of North America from the Society for the Anthropology of North America. In 2018, she co-curated the statewide Making Migration Visible project with Julie Poitras Santos, which was supported by an NEA grant. She has published 10 books.
Al Cleveland is a young queer organizer based in Portland, ME. Al is the Campaign Manager of Maine Youth Justice; a youth-led abolitionist campaign organizing to close Long Creek Youth Development Center and reinvest millions into our communities.
Jan Collins is the Assistant Director of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Program and a retired High School Science teacher. Jan became involved with criminal justice reform when her son was incarcerated in 2012. Since then she has served on the Board of Visitors for Franklin County Jail, acts as MPACs liaison with the prison branch of the NAACP, and regularly testifies before the legislature on issues related to criminal justice reform.
Jon Courtney is a co-founder of SPACE and the Films Programmer for the Portland Museum of Art. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic he organized film and musical performance programming through the NAACP Branch at the Maine State Prison. Jon is also an active member of the Jericho Circle Project, facilitating men’s integrity circles in Massachusetts prisons and helped initiate the first JCP Maine group at MSP in 2020. During the pandemic he has coordinated a book drive for several correctional facilities in Maine and has helped to steward podcast and film content onto the Edovo tablet systems available to incarcerated folks in Maine DOC facilities. He has also served as both a volunteer and board member for Maine Inside Out.
Lelia L. DeAndrade is the Vice President of Community Impact at the Maine Community Foundation. She holds PhD in Sociology from Syracuse University. Dr. DeAndrade was the recipient a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. At the Maine Community Foundation, Dr. DeAndrade oversees all competitive grant programs and scholarships, in addition to leading MaineCF’s strategic goal work. Before joining the staff of the Maine Community Foundation, Dr. De Andrade was the Associate Director of the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence, and a professor at Bowdoin College.
Glen Gallik first opened his eyes to the dream of abolition when studying under the scholar Joy James. Her teaching and writing set him on a path towards community organizing and seeking radical politics. Glen works primarily in Portland, Maine with a focus on progressive municipal policy and candidates – most recently working to pass a slate of referenda including the first facial surveillance ban in Maine.
Elizabeth Jabar is a feminist printmaker who explores a range of personal-political issues in her work including cultural identity, representation, equity and maternal ethics. Elizabeth’s printed objects and environments embody printmakings’ democratic tradition of resistance and collective power and reflect her commitment to art as a tool for social change. Her most recent social practice endeavor is Hinge Collaborative, a community arts initiative and printmaking studio in central Maine. The studio is a platform for socially engaged art projects, educational partnerships, and cultural events in local communities across Maine. Elizabeth’s works have been shown at galleries and museums nationally and internationally. Elizabeth is the inaugural Lawry Family Director of Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships at Colby College.
Joseph Jackson is a published poet, the coordinator of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, and the Youth and Community Facilitator with Maine Inside Out. Mr. Jackson is a returning citizen who spent two decades as a prisoner within the Maine Department of Corrections. As a prisoner, Mr. Jackson completed Literacy Volunteer Training; PEER Education; Work Ready Alternatives to Violence, One, Two, and Three; founded the Maine State Prison chapter of the NAACP; and earned his Associates and Bachelor’s degrees with summa cum laude honors from the University of Southern Maine. He became the first prisoner in Maine to be selected to University of Southern Maine’s MFA graduate program at StoneCoast and recently completed his Master’s Degree at the University of Southern Maine, where he was selected as the commencement speaker for his class.
qainat khan is the Director of Communications at the ACLU of Maine. She comes to the ACLU after almost ten years in Boston. For the majority of that time, she was a reporter and producer at WBUR, an NPR affiliate in Boston. As a reporter, qainat’s interests centered on stories about housing and poverty. Her experiences as a reporter led qainat to law school. She attended Northeastern University School of Law on a Public Interest Law Scholarship. As a law student, qainat was awarded a Rappaport Fellowship to work on fair housing and zoning issues in the Office of Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards.
Daniel Minter is a co-founder of Indigo Arts Alliance and an artist whose widely exhibited work deals with themes of displacement and diaspora, ordinary/extraordinary blackness; spirituality in the Afro-Atlantic world; and the (re)creation of meanings of home. He has received a Caldecott Honor, a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor, an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and commissions from the U.S Postal Service to create Kwanzaa stamps. As founding director of Maine Freedom Trails, he has helped highlight the history of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement in New England. For the past 15 years Minter has raised awareness of the forced removal in 1912 of an interracial community on Maine’s Malaga Island. Minter is a graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta and holds an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from The Maine College of Art.
Marcia Minter is a seasoned creative professional, dedicated arts advocate and community leader deeply committed to social and cultural activism. Her work on numerous boards represents the interest of underrepresented voices, talents and citizen constituents. She has spent her professional career as an Executive Creative Director for some of the world’s most iconic brands. Her curatorial work focuses on photography, symposiums on the intersection of art and social practice, exhibition planning and implementation. Currently she serves on the Maine Arts Commission, and is a Trustee of the Portland Museum of Art and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. In 2019 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Maine College of Art.
Chris Newell is Executive Director and Sr. Partner to Wabanaki Nations for the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine. He is a multi-award-winning museum professional born and raised in Motahkmikuhk (Indian Township, ME) and a proud citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the New England Museum Association and current member of the Maine Arts Commission. Chris is a co-founder of Akomawt Educational Initiative, an educational consultancy working with schools, universities, museums, and all areas of education to incorporate Native perspectives in a culturally competent manner.
Brian Pitman is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Maine, with a Ph.D. from Old Dominion University in Criminology and Criminal Justice. He also has a Master’s degree from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in Criminology and Public Sociology, and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke in Sociology and Criminal Justice with a minor in American Indian studies. Brian’s research interests are in the racist disparities in the criminal legal system. He is committed to the abolishment of the criminal legal system. He has written for public outlets such as TruthOut, The Conversation, the Bangor Daily News, and the Robesonian. His peer-reviewed articles can be found in Critical Criminology, Race and Justice, and Convergence.
Mara Sanchez is a Policy Associate in the Justice Policy Program ofthe Cutler Institute at the University of Southern Maine.A former news and documentary producer, Mara completed her master’s degree in Policy, Planning and Management from the University of Southern Maine in 2017. Mara is primarily focused on youth justice issues and co-leads the Place Matters and Opportunity Scholars projects within the Justice Policy Program. Mara has contributed to several reports including Unsealed Fate: The Unintended Consequences of Inadequate Safeguarding of Juvenile Records in Maine and most recently, the Place Matters series. Mara is dedicated to building pathways for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated populations to achieve academic outcomes, which is the primary goal of the Opportunity Scholars project.
Julie Poitras Santos (she/her)serves as the Director of Exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art (ICA at MECA). Her curatorial work includes co-curating with Catherine Besteman Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks & Pathways (2018) for the ICA at MECA. Accompanied by a state-wide initiative involving over seventy partners, and a symposium, the exhibition was supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work as an artist has been supported by numerous grants and has been exhibited widely. The relationship between site, story and mobility fuels her research and production, including the relationship between natural histories and individual story; walking as a form of listening to site; and material agency in an age of climate change.
Amber Tierney is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC). Her pedagogy and scholarly work investigates the intersection of social justice, activism, media, (cri)mmigration, politics, and the sociology of food. In her role as Chair of the Sociology Department at LTCC, she oversees the curriculum component of LTCC’s expanding Incarcerated Student Program, that serves hundreds of students throughout the CA prison system to earn an AA-T in Sociology. She is also a faculty fellow with the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at University of Maine and has worked in the tech sector as a user experience researcher. Amber splits her time between Northern California and Maine.
Jill Ward runs the Maine Center for Juvenile Policy and Law at the University of Maine School of Law, which works with clinic students, faculty and system stakeholders to advance policies and practices to reduce harm and to increase positive outcomes for current and former system-involved Maine youth. In 2020, she was appointed to the state’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group where she serves as chair. Jill also consults with national organizations on juvenile justice reform, including the Youth First Initiative and the Campaign for Youth Justice. Prior to returning to Maine in 2007, she worked for former U.S. Senators George Mitchell (ME) and Paul Sarbanes (MD), served as the first Policy Director for the Girl Scouts of the USA, and was Director of Juvenile Justice and Youth Development at the Children’s Defense Fund, where she co-chaired the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition. Jill is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Georgetown University Law Center.