Curated by Julien Robson & Rachel Zimmerman @ Crane Arts: Icebox Project Space, Grey Area, The Hall
Organized by Philadelphia non-profit InLiquid, in partnership with the Juvenile Law Center, Juvenile In Justice was an exhibition of works by artists Richard Ross, Roberto Lugo, and Mat Tomezsko, presented at Crane Arts in Kensington from November 8 through December 12, 2013. The project began when Rachel Zimmerman, Executive Director of InLiquid, and Independent Curator Julien Robson began talking about Richard Ross’ photographs of incarcerated youth and how this work should be exhibited in Philadelphia. In particular, they wanted to make local audiences aware of the critical discussion about juvenile incarceration occurring nationally and to give a voice to at-risk communities. Kensington-native ceramics artist, Roberto Lugo, and Philadelphia-based painter, Mat Tomezsko, were introduced as creative answers to Ross’ call for action. Their works are highly personal and share stories of loss, struggle and collaboration, and demonstrate the important role arts education plays in providing young people with the tools to understand the world and imaginatively express themselves.
In the Crane’s Icebox Project Space, the exhibition presented documentary photographs drawn from internationally renowned photographer Richard Ross’ Juvenile-In-Justice series. These works were accompanied by “story” panels that gave voice to the reflections of young people in detention. In the Grey Area, Roberto Lugo, an artist who grew up in the Kensington district of Philadelphia and whose work reflects his own personal experiences, presented new and recent ceramic works, which focused on issues including identity, racism, and class division. In The Hall at Crane Arts, Philadelphia artist Mat Tomezsko’s series of 94 paintings entitled There Is No, created in collaboration with youth from the Covenant House Shelter for homeless young people, was shown in its entirety. At the center of the Icebox, and based on one of Ross’ images, was a full-scale reproduction of a juvenile confinement cell. This provided visitors with a visual example of the living conditions many of these young people face. A seating area provided space for public speaker events and film projections.
Using Crane Arts as a destination for collaboration and community good, this project invited all of Philadelphia, bringing together a diverse group of people to participate in a national conversation about our juvenile justice system and how we can better engage and provide critical support to our youth. This was done through various public programming, including a Youth Ambassador Program; a Youth Art Show (traveled regionally throughout 2014); the first free juvenile record expungement clinic in Philadelphia, organized in partnership with the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity; numerous film screenings and more.
Juvenile In Justice won the 2014 PNC Arts Alive Award for Innovation in Honor of Peggy Amsterdam (Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia) and is continuing through InLiquid’s Art For Action series, which includes social justice art exhibitions and events, and interactive workshops, provided by InLiquid artist members, guest artists, and local art organizations.
Our 2013 Juvenile In Justice programming at Crane Arts included:
Nov. 7: Youth Ambassador Preview Reception and Panel Discussion
Nov. 8: Artist Talk with Richard Ross and Roberto Lugo, followed by a Public Opening Reception
Nov. 21: Daytime Film Screening and Discussion for Youth and an evening “Pull of Gravity” Film Screening and Panel Discussion
Dec. 3: #Giving Tuesday Day of Events: Kickoff Panel Discussion, free Youth Criminal Record Expungement Clinic, and an Evening Event and Awards Ceremony
Dec. 5: “Moving Beyond the Walls” film screening and discussion, presented by Mural Arts
Dec. 12: Youth Art Show Opening and a Mock Youth Court Disciplinary Hearing and Discussion, presented by students from Strawberry Mansion High School