Jesse Krimes is a Philadelphia based artist whose work explores power, authority, systems, social hierarchies, norms, transgressions and conventions of beauty. Shortly after graduating from Millersville University in 2008, he was indicted by the U.S. government and sentenced to a six-year term in federal prison. Over the period of his incarceration, he produced numerous bodies of work exploring his experiences and reflecting on contemporary society. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Previous solo exhibitions include Strange Roots at Burning in Water (2018; New York); Apokaluptein at Loyola University (2018; Baltimore, MD); Purgatory at the Spagnuole Art Gallery, Georgetown University (2017; Washington, DC); Marking Time in America at Burning in Water (2016; New York), Deus Ex Machina at Drexel University (2016; PA); and Apokaluptein at the Zimmerli Museum (2015; New Brunswick, NJ). Krimes’ work has been included in group exhibitions in venues including the Palais de Tokyo (Paris); the Goethe Institute (New York); Aperture Gallery (New York); the Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore); the Hampshire College Art Museum (Hampshire, MA)
After Krimes’ release in 2014, he co-founded Right of Return USA in partnership with the Soze agency, the first national fellowship dedicated to supporting formerly incarcerated artists. He has received public commissions from the Ford Foundation, Amnesty International, Mural Arts Philadelphia, and Eastern State Penitentiary. Krimes was awarded fellowships from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (2017); the Independence Foundation (2017); and the Ford Foundation’s Art For Justice initiative (2018). He is represented by Burning in Water Gallery in New York. In addition to his independent work, Krimes successfully led a class-action lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase for their predatory practice of charging ex-offenders exorbitant fees.
Russell Craig is an accomplished painter and Philadelphia native whose work combines portraiture with deeply social and political themes. A self-taught artist who survived nearly a decade of incarceration after growing up in the foster care system, Craig creates art as a means to explore the experience of overcriminalized communities and reassert agency after a lifetime of institutional control. His work has been shown at Rutgers University, the Truth to Power exhibition during the Democratic National Convention, and State Goods: Art in the Era of Mass Incarceration at Columbia University, among other venues. His work has garnered coverage in outlets including the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, Artsy, The Guardian, and The New York Times. Craig is a lead artist with the Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Restorative Justice Guild program, a 2017 Right of Return fellow, and a 2018 Ford Foundation: Art for Justice fellow.
Mary Enoch Elizabeth Baxter, also known by her hip-hop name “Isis Tha Saviour,” is a Philadelphia artist who creates socially conscious music through an autobiographical lens. Ms. Baxter is an art and design graduate of the Community College of Philadelphia who recently received her second degree in behavioral health. She is a single mother, entrepreneur, and, prison reform advocate.
Although it's been a decade since her release from a Pennsylvania prison, Mary's time spent on the inside continues to shape the direction of her music and film work. Her entertaining but poignant works offer a critical perspective on the particular challenges women of color face when they become immersed in the criminal justice system.
In 2017, Mary’s lyrically raw and unflinching examination of giving birth while shackled in prison earned her a “Right of Return” fellowship for formerly incarcerated artists. She has since partnered with Van Jones’s Cut50 and Senator Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Dick Durbin to support the national “Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act,” seeking to end the shackling of pregnant women while incarcerated. Mary has also spoken at numerous universities across the country, most recently at Harvard University’s Center for Bioethics.
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a Ph.D. in Law candidate at Yale and Emerson Fellow at New America. He holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland and a J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was awarded the Israel H. Perez Prize for best student note or comment appearing in the Yale Law Journal. He spent his summers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the District of Columbia’s Public Defender Service. He has worked in the New Haven Public Defender’s Office as a Liman Fellow.
Prior to law school, Betts was a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies, a Soros Justice Fellow, and a Guggenheim Fellow. In addition, he served by appointment of former President Barack Obama as a practitioner member of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The author of three books, Betts’ latest collection of poems, Bastards of the Reagan Era, has been named the winner of the Pen New England Poetry Prize. His first collection of poems, Shahid Reads His Own Palm, won the Beatrice Hawley Award. Betts’ memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, was the recipient of the 2010 NAACP Image Award for non-fiction.
Sheri Crider is a visual artist, community builder, and a civil rights dreamer, who lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She received an MFA in Sculpture from the University of New Mexico. After recovering from many years of drug addicted homelessness, sheri attended the University of Arizona on an academic tuition waiver and a fine arts scholarship. She received her BFA in Ceramics, Printmaking and Queer Theory.
Sheri Crider sees great possibility in discarded materials, unused spaces, and missed opportunities. She expands her creative vision for possibility with an arsenal of practical skills, personal experience, tireless dedication, and enough fearlessness to transform possibility into reality. For the past decade, sheri has woven a multi-disciplinary practice that includes a platform for community and artists manifested in the Sanitary Tortilla Factory, and a studio practice dedicated to works at the intersection of personal experience, empathy and mass incarceration.
Juan Ortiz is a community organizer, artist, and activist who was most recently a Right of Return Fellow for 2017-2018. A fellowship that fosters formerly incarcerated leaders in the arts. He is presently a doctoral student, instructor and fellow in the Mexican American Department studies at the University of Arizona where his research concentrates on the effects of mass incarceration in a border context. Ortiz is a graduate of Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in the Community Arts Masters in Fine Arts program in Baltimore Maryland. He also holds a Masters in Art and Public Policy from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and a Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary studies from the University of Texas, El Paso. For his work in the Southeast Baltimore Latinx community, Ortiz was selected as a Community Partner to the White House Action Summit in 2015. Ortiz's work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and amongst his most recent honors has also been designated a Baltimore Social Innovation Fellow (2016) a Robert W. Deutsch Fellow (2016) and was recently a guest speaker at CityLab Baltimore hosted by the Atlantic magazine, the Aspen Institute and Bloomberg Philanthropy. Originally from El Paso, Texas Ortiz has lived, worked and studied in East Baltimore for the past four years although he has participated on various nationwide and international social justice campaigns. Among them, the Force, Border Tour of the Monument Quilt and Movimiento Cosecha’s national campaign for immigration reform.
Shontina Vernon is a theatre artist/filmmaker/ musician/creative facilitator/ and educator. She fuses performance, live music, and multi-media in centering the narratives of marginalized communities. Vernon is a recipient of the 2016-18 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation “Artist as Activist” Fellowship for the creation of the Visionary Justice StoryLab, a collaborative of interdisciplinary artists, activists, media makers and community members working to address the impact of systemic oppression through storytelling and performance- based healing practices. She is also this year’s Herb Alpert/ MacDowell Colony Fellow in Theatre and a 2017 Mural Arts Philadelphia Fellowship grantee. Her theatre work has been developed and produced by New York Theatre Workshop, Seattle’s ACT Theatre, the Hansberry Project, the Hip Hop Theatre Festival, and featured at the World Wide Words International Festival in Copenhagen, Denmark. Most noted among her plays are Women of the Wild Root, A Lovely Malfunction (nominated for a 2016 NYC Audelco Award), and Wanted. She is currently developing Forging Ahead on the impact juvenile incarceration has on who we become as adults with Flying Carpet Theatre, and Last Kind Words, the story of two black queer women and their erasure from the American blues canon. Her recent short film, Grrrl Justice, exploring the pathways of girls and gender non-conforming youth of color into the juvenile justice system is in now in post-production.