Mitigating Evidence is an exhibition of work by incarcerated artists and authors, positioning the power of creative expression to assert agency in the context of the systemically dehumanizing Prison Industrial Complex.
In presenting a curated selection of work made by participants of Free Write Arts & Literacy and the Prison Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP), the exhibition offers community members the opportunity to view a wide range of art and writing, to learn about issues of incarceration in Illinois, and to respond to the sociopolitical climate that has given rise to the Prison Industrial Complex.
Author Reginald Dwayne Betts says about this exhibition:
“In determining what can be admitted, the judge, relying on the rules of evidence, determines when the story begins. This is the kind of power that alters lives forever, cabining all that matters in a person’s life to the brief time before or after some tragedy occurred, as if their childhood, their future, should not factor into what we imagine as possible, as needed Mitigating Evidence is the place that subverts this practice.”
The exhibition features self-portraits, a retrospective of Free Write and PNAP artists’ work, a listening station with audio recordings of student compositions, and a multimedia timeline that juxtaposes significant events related to criminalization and prison reform with the power of the personal narrative. In conjunction to the exhibition, the opening celebrates the publication of Free Write’s seventh anthology of student writing and art.
Mitigating Evidence, curated by Chelsea Ross, is the fifth exhibition of Free Write student work hosted by Chicago Art Department and the first collaborative effort between Free Write and PNAP. Since 2000, Free Write has facilitated creative writing workshops, one on-one literacy tutoring, and arts programming for youth in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. Since 2011, PNAP has provided art and humanities classes for men incarcerated in Stateville Prison, located in Crest Hill, Illinois.
Mitigating Evidence opens at Chicago Art Department on September 9, 2016 as part of the Chicago Arts District 2nd Fridays gallery night.
Date: August 20, 2019