by Christina Ann McGrath
A vivid representation of the intersection of art and justice, the ARTE panel, which was sponsored by the Society of Fellows and the Heyman Center for the Humanities, provided an overview not just of the project, but also gave the young women involved an opportunity to speak about their experiences participating in this unique enterprise. In the winter of 2017, ARTE (Art and Resistance Through Education), in collaboration with the Justice-in-Education Initiative, facilitated a workshop for young women detained in a New York jail. The women conceived of and drafted a mural that celebrated the accomplishments of six notable women of color, namely Dolores Huerta, Bree Newsome, Michelle Obama, Leymah Gbowee, Malala Yousafzai, and Leena Kejriwal; in the spring of 2018, a group of students from the Maxine Greene High School worked on painting the mural, which can now be admired at the intersection of 116th St. and Frederick Douglass Blvd.
Carriyanni Clarke, Rosnelys Then, Celeste Perez, and Nani McWilliams, the young women who brought the mural to fruition, discussed the various aspects of their collective experience, sharing their views on mass incarceration, feminist activism, the significance of art education, and the importance of representation of women of color in the media. In particular, all four young women agreed that working to realize the artistic vision of women in prison was a powerful experience; as Celeste noted, the women who were incarcerated and participated in conceiving of the mural “had a second chance at doing something good in life -- they were able to make a change.” After a lively discussion of the project and what it had imparted to them, an audience member asked the artists what they intended to do next. After a moment of thought, Rosnelys responded with a strong remark that served to conclude the evening: “We’re never going to stop educating ourselves and educating other women.”