Jesse Krimes

Artist and co-founder of the Right of Return USA Fellowship Project

Grantee Cohort Spring 2018, Spring 2019

Location Pennsylvania

Since 2014, Jesse Krimes has been deeply engaged in both contemporary art and socially-engaged practices, including co-founding the Right of Return USA Fellowship in partnership with Soze Agency and Open Philanthropy Project. The fellowship is dedicated to supporting artists who are formerly incarcerated. While serving a six-year prison sentence, Krimes produced and smuggled out numerous bodies of work exploring how contemporary media shapes or reinforces societal mechanisms of power and control. Krimes has also produced various projects focused on racial and criminal justice issues through his work with Philadelphia Mural Art’s Restorative Justice program, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s Artist as Activist Initiative, and Creative Capital. In addition to his independent practice, he successfully led a class-action lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase for their predatory practice of charging people released from federal prison exorbitant fees.

With support from Art for Justice, The “Voices” project used participatory public art and an accompanying engagement program as a catalyst for dialogue around the hidden injustices of the criminal justice system. Collaborative design workshops were held for community members directly impacted by the criminal justice as well as the larger Lancaster County community, and served as the source for creating the works featured in “Voices.”

With an Art for Justice Activating Art and Advocacy grant, The Civil Rights Corps commissioned renowned artist Jesse Krimes to create the Mass Incarceration Quilt — a touring art exhibit that reframed public narratives that perpetuate mass incarceration and told the stories of people whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system. The series included handmade quilts with images from incarcerated people and the broader community. Jesse and the Civil Rights Corps also commissioned 14 incarcerated and formerly incarcerated artists to contribute their creative visions and talents to the project, and they identified opportunities for the public to interact with the project.