Recess Art

An art gallery partnering with artists to inspire a more inclusive and just creative community

Grantee Cohort Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2018, Spring 2019

Location New York City

Recess is an art gallery that opened in 2009 that partners with artists to inspire a more inclusive and just creative community. Recess welcomes radical and innovative thinkers to answer society’s complex questions. Recess also offers arts programming, one of which is Assembly, a youth diversion program for young adults convicted of misdemeanors. Participants reflect on their own lives and engage in visual storytelling.

Shaun Leonardo is a visual and performing artist whose personal work focuses on the intersection of masculinity, race, and culture. He has worked with different populations such as residents in New York City’s public housing, homeless men and women, LGBTQ youth, and formerly incarcerated people. Some of his notable works include The Eulogy (2017, The Highline) and I Can’t Breathe (2016, various venues). Leonardo leads the diversion workshops for Recess.

With Art for Justice’s support, Performing Statistics partnered with Recess and the Center for Court Innovation to provide artistic expertise for their respective alternative to incarceration programs. Recess’ Assembly used Performing Statistics to create artwork with participants affected by the justice system that reflects their interactions with law enforcement and connects to officers who are patrolling their neighborhoods. The Center for Court Innovation used its collaboration for Project Reset, a pre-arraignment diversion program that offers people charged with low-level misdemeanors the opportunity to resolve their criminal cases by participating in community-based programming. Project Reset culminated with an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum created by Project Reset participants. Recess Art reimagined an inclusive public for artists, and their next grant from Art for Justice enabled Recess Art to expand its Assembly curriculum toward a more just and inclusive creative community. The curriculum offered those caught up in the justice system an inroad to art and uses revisionist storytelling exercises to dispel racist narratives of the word “criminal,” helping young people to replace them with more empowered accounts of their whole selves.

With their latest grant, Recess Art will scale their artist-led abolitionist framework by piloting a new cohort of artists to deliver workshops and create space for processes of radical envisioning and structural change within their Brooklyn community and beyond.