Gregory Sale

The Renewal Project: Art, Policy and Perception

Project Description

Although we can easily picture iconic images of prisoners, almost everyone would struggle to visualize images of successful returning citizens. Like prisoners, the re­entry population struggles with invisibility. Marginalized and disempowered, they should be included when considering how to reform existing prison systems.

When participants in my past artworks on mass incarceration began completing their sentences, I witnessed communities hard­pressed to welcome them home. Thus began my multi­year social and aesthetic investigation into the complex issue of individuals reentering society after incarceration.

Recidivism rates in California approach 75% for 18­25 year olds. ARC does vital work in helping them start fresh and in guiding them to use their turnaround stories to convince legislators that rehabilitation is possible. ARC’s demonstrable successes include restored budgets for prison college programs and legislation enacted to mandate more humane sentencing for juveniles.

I will collaborate with ARC as an official artist­in­residence, holding a space for persons at risk of recidivism to reconsider the complexity of re­integration and the role of their creative expression in re­imaging themselves and their positions in society:

Art Room – During a two­day ARC retreat, the room will function as a hybrid laboratory/studio space for the 150 ARC members (a workshop session, one­on­one consultations, and an open studio for members to engage with a range of artistic modalities). ARC members have learned creative writing as a catalyst for personal transformation from work with InsideOUT Writers and Street Poets. The Art Room will focus both on visual and text­based work and storytelling as performance. To be developed with a restorative justice practitioner, the Art Room will work towards making individual components to form a collective and cohesive whole.

Work Group ­ I have been invited to work with the 25 young men and women participating in ARC’s Supportive Housing Initiative. Committed to positive change, these formerly incarcerated adults attend community college or university. I have also started to contact faculty at college art programs in Los Angeles to solicit students to participate. My approach exists at an intersection of social justice and arts practice; the Work Group will consist of ARC members as “content experts” and art students as “aesthetic experts.” With the help of guest advocates and artists, we will explore content­ driven working methodologies and consider ideological and aesthetic frames to focus and develop our investigation.

Public Service Campaign ­ Springboarding from the results of its collaboration, the Work Group will design a social art project as a public service campaign. Opening our process to the public and media in meaningful and thoughtful ways, the campaign may pose questions, incite reflection, or present individual and sometimes conflicting perspectives. I will propose to the group that the campaign be presented in three contexts: 1) at a museum; 2) inside the system ­ in prisons, jails, probation waiting rooms; and 3) citywide on buses and in the metro stations. Together we will build the necessary alliances to make this possible.