Courtney Cone (Austin, Texas) was incarcerated in Texas from 2006 to 2009. Her work as an artist is rooted in this experience and engages audiences through the lens of humor, satire, or visceral irony before being confronted with the horrific reality that incarceration inflicts upon women. Using a wide range of materials, installations, performances, and video to explicate themes of survival and empowerment, Courtney’s work explores the complications of occupying a female body in the prison system with a focus on the visceral, often dehumanizing ramifications. For her project, titled Ain’t No Orange in Texas, Courtney is planning to expand an on-going video and performance project that will incorporate workshops with formerly incarcerated women. The goal of this project will be to provide participants with a platform to develop their own personal narratives that will simultaneously embody their experience of empowerment over trauma. Courtney is another emerging artist with an incredible sense of creativity and conceptual rigor who will clearly benefit from being connected with a broader community of formerly incarcerated artists. We plan to work closely with to develop her idea and connect her with criminal justice organizations or campaigns in Texas to partner with.
Mitchell Jackson (New York, New York) is a writer whose work brilliantly interrogates the connection race and class have to criminal justice. Incarcerated for 16 months as a young person, Mitchell now holds an MFA from NYU in Creative Writing and an MA in Writing from Portland State. He has taught college courses since 2002 and is the recipient of dozens of awards, honors and distinctions throughout his career. Inspired to challenge the myth of black men as dangerous by the Black Lives Matter Movement, Mitchell’s project is a historical novel — currently titled John of Watts — about the Ecclesia Sports Association, in which he’ll continue to investigate the intersectional themes of race, class, masculinity, and criminal justice. Mitchell plans to finish and publish his book within the year, and will be organizing accompanying readings and programming surrounding the launch of his book. We are planning to coordinate with him on potential partnering organizations across the country.
Asia Johnson (Detroit, Michigan) is an organizer, activist, mentor, performance artist and poet, whose work centers around themes of race, criminal justice and equality. Raised in Detroit and incarcerated at a young age, Asia has since had her poetry published in a number of publications and anthologies, and she’s also been tapped to speak on panels and teach classes to at-risk populations. Her moving poetry and videos highlight a host of criminal justice-related issues revolving around race, gender, and class. Her proposed project aims to utilize poetry, performance, video and public engagement strategies to create audio visual narratives around issues on incarceration. While Asia is very much an emerging artist, her application was one of the most innovative received. She is clearly brilliant and poised to take full advantage of this opportunity given an established community of support. We plan to work with her closely to fully flesh out her idea, audience engagement strategies, intended impact, and best possible collaborating criminal justice partner.
Michelle C. Jones
Michelle C. Jones (New York, New York) is a published academic, writer, photographer, dancer and performance artist currently studying in a doctoral program NYU. Incarcerated for over 20 years in Indiana, Michelle became a published scholar of American history while behind bars. She also organized other women in the prison to pour through reams of photocopied documents from the Indiana State Archives to produce the Indiana Historical Society’s best research project last year. Ms. Jones also wrote several dance compositions and historical plays. Following her release, she began to take photography classes with Deb Willis Thomas and became focused on ending the stigma and “perpetual recriminalization” of formerly incarcerated individuals. For her fellowship project, Michelle, inspired by Frederick Douglass’s affinity for photography, will commission a series of juxtaposed still portraits of formerly incarcerated individuals — one featuring the subject in carceral clothing, one in everyday-wear — to exhibit the power of stigma and perception. The second series will feature both those that are formerly incarcerated and non-incarcerated individuals, all shot in the same manner, underscoring the notion that point of view impacts our perception. She also plans to write an academic essay dissecting the weaponization of photography used against system impacted people that will accompany the life size portraits. While she hasn’t listed a specific criminal justice organization to partner with, she clearly has a strong conceptual project that has the potential to reach audiences across the country.
Daniel McCarthy Clifford
Daniel McCarthy Clifford (Minneapolis, Minnesota) is a visual artist, photographer and printer. He recently received his MFA in Photography and Moving Imagery from the University of Minnesota and previously earned his BA in Art History and Sculpture from the University of New Mexico. Daniel served 46 months in prison starting at the age of 19. His art practice is informed by his experience navigating the justice system and extensive research into the history of the US Bureau of Prisons and prisoner organizing strategies from the early 20th century through the civil rights movements. Daniel’s last art project was a collaboration with Betsy Friesen, the director of data management at a library, and Ray Barney, the assistant to the curator for creative collaboration at Weisman Art Museum to compile and document all of the books banned from entering prison across the United States. To date, there are over 40,000 publications, many of which focus on various organizing strategies. This censorship of information has inspired Daniel to create a publication that compiles the history of activism, organizing, and interracial solidarity for consumption inside and outside of US prisons. To accomplish this, he plans to create a faux cover for the book and intersperse the history of activism and organizing throughout other inconspicuous texts and chapters within it. Through his connection with an “approved” publishing house he will mail these texts into hundreds of prisons across the country and make them available to organizations on the outside.
Sherrill Roland (Morrisville, North Carolina) is a visual and performance artist who was wrongfully convicted of a crime while working toward an MFA in 2013 at UNC-Greensboro. After serving a 10-month sentence, he returned to school wearing his prison jumpsuit in an effort to raise awareness about mass incarceration and racial profiling. This performance became known as The Jumpsuit Project. Upon completing his MFA, Sherrill began to tour the project around the country and it has since grown into a multidisciplinary endeavor that seeks to engage audiences in everyday spaces in order to spark conversations about people’s perceived bias and the impact of incarceration. Through the fellowship he is seeking to expand his project and work directly with lawyers and wrongful imprisonment clinics in North Carolina to help those affected tell their story via prints and video documentation produced during workshops led by Sherrill. The content of the media will focus on the value of time lost and disruption caused by incarceration. The works created by exonerees are intended to be exhibited within law schools across the country, project art spaces, museums, and galleries. He hopes the project will help change compensation statute in various states. The number of exonerations in this country has continued to increase year by year, and many of those being released have been imprisoned for decades.