2018 Spring Grant Recipients Announced



Today, the Art for Justice Fund released the names of 38 grant recipients for Spring 2018. These new grantees are a mix of extraordinary organizations, advocates, writers and artists working in communities most harmed by mass incarceration and where the promise of change is greatest. These latest grants build on the investments made last fall and bring the total amount deployed by the Fund to almost $32 million.

Agnes Gund, founder of the Art for Justice Fund, welcomed the new round of grantees, saying:

I am thrilled to support this mix of truly exceptional visionaries who are helping to change the way we think about criminal justice in America. From advocates to artists, storytellers to policy experts, each of our grantees is helping to dismantle an unjust system and culture that preys on vulnerable communities.

With this round of grants in particular, the Art for Justice Fund is emphasizing support to women and children. We know that children whose parents get trapped in the criminal justice system are more likely to be incarcerated later themselves. We need to break this vicious cycle that is devastating the lives of individuals, families, and entire communities.

I hope the Art for Justice Fund, and the work that we support, will inspire others to join the movement to end mass incarceration.

The newest grants range from $25,000 to $2 million, based on the scope of the project, and reflect the Fund’s four key areas of interest.

(Photo credit: A stylized shot from the Love Letters campaign video for incarcerated mothers and their children, an initiative spearheaded by 2018 grantee We Got Us Now.)

Keeping people out of jail and prison

Borealis Philanthropy

This grant will support the creation of a new pooled-fund to provide financial resources to local and state organizations working to end cash bail practices that discriminate against poor people.

Dignity & Power Now

This Los Angeles-based grassroots organization will expand its capacity to make art as part of a local campaign to stop the building of a new adult jail in Los Angeles County.

NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund

This grant will support the Prosecutor Reform Project, a new effort to engage African American communities around prosecutor elections in states with high rates of incarceration.

Pretrial Justice Institute

With this grant, PJI will expand its efforts to reform the money bail system by educating policymakers and the public, and providing a new model of pretrial services that other states can adapt.

Youth First Initiative

This grant will support new state-based campaigns aimed at closing youth prisons and redirecting public resources toward effective programs and opportunities for youth.

Youth First State Advocacy Fund

In coordination with the Youth First Initiative, this grant will enable the Youth First State Advocacy Fund to provide financial resources to state-based advocates working to close youth prisons and transform juvenile justice systems.

Shortening sentences

Forward Justice

This grant will help launch a new national policy advocacy network run by formerly incarcerated leaders to end mass incarceration.

New Virginia Majority Education Fund

This grant will help expand the organization’s capacity to reform the criminal justice system in the state of Virginia.

Ohio Transformation Fund

This grant will support local organizers and advocacy organizations to reduce the number of people in prison and jail, and to redirect resources to community-based alternatives to prison.

Stand Up for Ohio

This grant will support efforts to reform Ohio’s criminal justice system by expanding organizing activities to reach more people of color, low-income people, and young people impacted by the justice system.

Promoting reentry

A New Way of Life

This grant will help build the organization’s capacity to provide community-based resources to women impacted by incarceration, and to support its founder, Susan Burton, as she organizes for the transformation of the criminal justice system.

Florida Rights Restoration Coalition

This grant will be used to increase staffing and volunteer capacity to lead activist training, public education, and voter engagement efforts.

Vera Institute for Justice

This grant will support the launch of a national campaign to expand higher education programs for incarcerated students and to lift restrictions that prevent formerly incarcerated students from receiving education grants.

Voice of The Experienced (VOTE)

The grant will allow VOTE to increase its capacity for organizing campaigns and staffing, and elevate its communications and outreach to increase public awareness and educate stakeholders on criminal justice reforms.

We Got Us Now

This organization created by children of people who are incarcerated will expand its network and provide leadership training for children and young adults impacted by parental incarceration.

Changing the narrative with art

Dream Corps

This grant will support planning efforts to expand music programming to incarcerated women in California and distribute a music album by incarcerated young artists to promote public awareness of the crisis of mass incarceration.

Friends of the High Line

This grant will support a multidisciplinary public event curated by Sable Elyse Smith presented in conjunction with her High Line Commission C.R.E.A.M., which explores the complexities of language and the carceral state.

Art for Justice/Soros Justice Fellowship

This fellowship will support composer, pianist, and social justice activist Samora Pinderhughes to complete The Healing Project. This project combines musical compositions with audio interviews with incarcerated people, exposing the trauma of incarceration and its impact on communities of color.

“Imagining Justice” Arts Grants

These grants are designed to enable individual artists and artist collaborations to develop, continue, or complete work that elevates ideas and stories about the injustice and inequity of mass incarceration. The recipients are:

Cameron Rowland

The artist will use the grant to develop a collection of works considering the impacts of legal financial obligations, debt, and post-release services funded by fees paid by formerly incarcerated people being monitored through parole and probation.

Hank Willis Thomas, Baz Dreisinger, MASS Design Group

Writing on the Wall is a collaborative installation made from diagrams, essays, letters, notes, poems, and stories from incarcerated people around the world. Through this grant, Thomas and Dreisinger will partner with MASS Design Group to turn the pop-up concept into a traveling exhibiting and a collapsible booth.

Jesse Krimes 

The “Voices” project will use participatory public art and an accompanying engagement program as a catalyst for dialogue around the hidden injustices of the criminal justice system.

Laurie Jo Reynolds 

Laurie Jo Reynolds will design and implement a multi-disciplinary, organizing campaign around the collateral consequences of criminal convictions in Illinois, especially the use of conviction registries and exclusion zones.

Liza Jessie Peterson
The grant will support the national tour of Peterson’s most recent project, an original multi-media play—produced as a one-woman show by the National Black Theatre in New York—titled The Peculiar Patriot.

Maria Gaspar

Gasper plans to create a TV miniseries called Walls Turned Sideways are Bridges, which will be produced and recorded inside Cook County Jail.

Russell Craig

Dark Reflections is a series of portraits of people most impacted by issues of the criminal justice system. Russell will choose subjects for these portraits as they appear in national headlines or trend on social media platforms.

Shaun Leonardo / Recess

This grant would fund Assembly, a program offered by Recess, and the diversion workshops led by Shaun Leonardo. Assembly works with court-involved young adults (aged 16-24) convicted of misdemeanors and allows them to avoid jail through participation in Assembly.

Titus Kaphar and Dwayne Betts

For “The Redaction,” the artists will create a series of works incorporating civil rights complaints filed primarily by Civil Rights Corps, an Art for Justice grantee. The complaints used to inform the piece will be those filed by people trapped in the justice system because they were unable to pay a fine or fee.

Xaviera Simmons

Using Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series as a framework, “Continuum” will focus on themes of discrimination, disenfranchisement, law, and politics. The project will culminate with approximately 52 different works to symbolize one piece of work per week.

Bearing Witness Fellowships

These 10 fellowships provide unrestricted awards of $50,000 to writers of exceptional talent, enabling them to complete projects that speak to the human cost of mass incarceration.

C.T. Mexica’s work is centered on the literature of crime, confessions, and confinement and on the social theory of tragedy, transformation, and transition.

Clint Smith’s writing has appeared in a number of major publications and he has delivered two popular TED Talks, The Danger of Silence & How to Raise a Black Son in America.

Francisco Cantú served as a border patrol agent for the U.S. Border Patrol and, as a former Fulbright fellow, received an MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Arizona.

Heather Ann Thompson is a historian and served on a National Academy of Sciences blue-ribbon panel that studied the causes and consequences of mass incarceration in the United States.

Kaneza Schaal and Chris Myers are acclaimed New York City-based visual and theater artists whose past works include GO FORTH, premiering to great acclaim as part of PS122’s COIL 2015.

Mahogany L. Browne is artistic director of Urban Word NYC and program director of Black Lives Matter Pratt.

Michelle Jones made the most of the academic platform given to publish and present her research findings and dispel notions about the reach and intellectual capacity of justice-involved women.

Mitchell S. Jackson is the winner of a Whiting Award and also an advocate for criminal justice reform who has visited prisons and youth facilities in the United States and abroad.

Natasha Trethewey’s mother was tragically murdered by her ex-husband and her third book of poems, Native Guard, contains elegies to her mother and a sonnet sequence in the voice of a black soldier fighting in the Civil War.

Valeria Luiselli’s novels and essays have been widely translated and her work Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions is about the perils faced by children who travel alone from Central America to the United States.