The Justice Wire
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The Justice Wire

DAO Artist in Residence ‘Points of Connection’ Exhibit Debuts for Public Viewing

CONTACT:

For District Attorney Krasner: Jane Roh, 215–686–8711, jane.roh@phila.gov

For Mural Arts Philadelphia: Cari Feiler Bender, Relief Communications, LLC, 610–416–1216, cari@reliefcomm.com

For Fair and Just Prosecution: Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director, 818–416–5218, krinskym@krinsky.la

PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 30, 2020) The District Attorney’s Office (DAO), Mural Arts Philadelphia, and Fair and Just Prosecution on Wednesday unveiled the public exhibition of the groundbreaking DAO Artist-in-Residence program. James “Yaya” Hough, a former juvenile lifer and now an accomplished artist, completed a 10-month residency with the DAO to explore the human toll of incarceration and highlight the importance of creating alternatives to a punitive and incarceration-driven justice system. Hough’s exhibit, “Points of Connection,” will be on display across the city, offering the public a chance to engage in direct dialogue on criminal justice reform issues. This unique project is one of the Activating Art and Advocacy projects funded by generous support from Art for Justice.

A large-scale vinyl window installation of all of the portraits is available for public viewing at the Office of the District Attorney, 3 South Penn Square (across from City Hall).

“Our efforts to remake the criminal justice system — the most powerful and opaque of American institutions — require us to recognize the humanity of all people, including people who are involved in the system,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said. “For many years, Mr. Hough has looked at a system that broke lives and communities more often than it repaired harm and trauma. Art has a unique ability to reveal the complexities of the human experience. It is my hope that Mr. Hough’s past work, work here, and work in the future will inspire us to seek and lift up the humanity in everyone — an endeavor that is more urgently needed than ever.”

Hough was the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at the DAO, working to humanize the people who populate the criminal legal system by cultivating relationships and connections through his artmaking. To commemorate the residency, Hough’s portraits will be displayed in several contexts that underscore the theme of reimagining justice and the accessibility of the arts.

Smaller printed keepsake versions of the portraits will be packaged as a portable exhibition, available for free at special events and by postal mail, and delivered to municipal offices, criminal justice sites, and selected schools throughout Philadelphia.

Additionally, several of the physical painted portraits will be installed at sites of art and justice throughout Philadelphia as a gesture to remind viewers of the power of storytelling and coalitions to change the way justice and art connect. The public is encouraged to engage with Hough’s paintings at several locations in Philadelphia, where possible:

● District Attorney’s Office: window vinyl at 3 South Penn Square, across from City Hall

● City Hall (Outside Mayor’s Office): 1400 John F. Kennedy Blvd. (limited public access)

● Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: 128 North Broad Street

● Eastern State Penitentiary: 2027 Fairmount Avenue (admission required)

● Beckett Life Center: 1410 North 16th Street

Associated events in coordination with the unveiling of Hough’s portraits include:

● Points of Connection Virtual Panel Discussion: Friday, October 2, 5–6 pm ET on Zoom. Moderated by Mural Arts Philadelphia Executive Director Jane Golden, this conversation featuring Hough, District Attorney Krasner, Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky, and Art for Justice Fund Project Director Helena Huang, will explore Hough’s artistic process throughout the project, which raises the question: “What does justice look like?” To register, email Victoria Boyer at victoria.boyer@muralarts.org. Members of the public may also watch via Zoom: muralarts.events/PointsOfConnectionFJP.

● Points of Connection Walking Tour: Exclusive tour of select portraits guided by Hough and curator Paul Farber. Tours will begin at the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts and conclude at the Office of the District Attorney. Tickets must be purchased in advance at muralarts.org/covid-19-waiver/. Masks are required.

“At Mural Arts Philadelphia, we are committed to telling stories from all perspectives, in many different communities,” said Mural Arts Executive Director Golden. “Yaya has done incredible work, even during the era of COVID, to spotlight all aspects of the criminal legal system. We look forward to showing the world his powerful work.”

“The power of art transcends the divides between us and lifts up the voices of individuals who too often go unheard,” said Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Krinsky. “Yaya’s artwork has done just that by bringing people together and providing a new lens on the justice system, as well as the weighty impact of the decisions made every day by prosecutors. The works he created will launch countless conversations throughout the city of Philadelphia and beyond and inspire prosecutors across the country to work to create a more fair and compassionate justice system.”

For his residency with the DAO, despite the COVID distances and shutdowns, Hough built meaningful relationships with individuals from several overlapping circles — formerly incarcerated returning citizens, victims’ advocates, and prosecutors — to paint them in portraits and discuss together what justice means to them. These portraits, and the resulting conversations in one-on-ones and small groups, provided a window into the larger system and an opportunity to approach criminal justice from perspectives of transformation, repair, and growth.

Formerly incarcerated returning citizens included in Hough’s work are Michael “Smokey” Wilson, John Pace, and Donnell “Nell” Drinks, alongside victims’ advocates Tahira Fortune, Dorothy Johnson-Speight, and Stanley Crawford, as well as prosecutors Ebony Wortham of the Juvenile Unit, Patricia Cummings of the Conviction Integrity Unit, First Assistant District Attorney Judge Carolyn Temin, and District Attorney Krasner.

About the Artist

James “Yaya” Hough, a renowned painter, developed and augmented his artistic talents while serving a once-life sentence at Pennsylvania’s Graterford State Correctional Institution. While incarcerated, from the age of 17 in 1992, he took art classes and contributed to over 50 murals outside of the walls of the prison through Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice program. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that life sentences for juvenile offenders were unconstitutional in 2012, Hough was resentenced and released in 2019. Since his release and coming home to his native Pittsburgh, Hough’s work has been featured in museum exhibitions at MoMA PS1 and the African American Museum in Philadelphia. He also is committed to being a part of changing the prison system in Pennsylvania and abolishing life without parole through organizations Decarcerate PA! and Project LifeLines.

About the Partners and Funder

Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP) is a national network of elected prosecutors working towards common-sense, compassionate criminal justice reforms. To learn more about FJP’s work, visit the website or follow on Facebook @FairAndJustProsecution and Twitter @fjp_org.

Points of Connection is funded by the Art for Justice Fund, which is disrupting mass incarceration by funding artists and advocates working together to reform our criminal justice system. It makes direct grants to artists and advocates focused on safely reducing the prison population, promoting justice reinvestment and creating art that changes the narrative around mass incarceration. This groundbreaking project will be one of the Activating Art and Advocacy projects funded by Art for Justice.

Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program, dedicated to the belief that art ignites change. For more than 35 years, Mural Arts has united artists and communities through a collaborative and equitable process, creating nearly 4,000 artworks that have transformed public spaces and individual lives. Mural Arts aims to empower people, stimulate dialogue, and build bridges to understanding with projects that attract artists from Philadelphia and around the world, and programs that focus on youth education, restorative justice, mental health and wellness, and public art and its preservation. Popular mural tours offer a firsthand glimpse into the inspiring stories behind Mural Arts’ iconic and unparalleled collection, which has earned Philadelphia worldwide recognition as the “City of Murals.” For more information, call 215–685–0750 or visit muralarts.org. Follow on social media: @muralarts on Twitter and Instagram, @MuralArtsPhiladelphia on Facebook, and phillymuralarts on YouTube.

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The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of approximately 40,000 criminal cases annually.

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