Art for Justice grantee and up-and-coming Philadelphia artist Russell Craig recently debuted Portraits of Justice, an interactive public artwork right across from City Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Inquirer covered his journey from using a ballpoint to sketch out his first works while incarcerated to working with Mural Arts Philadelphia:
Russell Craig — former North Philly foster kid, runaway, drug dealer, and felon; current-day muralist, teacher, Ford Foundation “Art for Justice” honoree, and conceptual artist — didn’t so much break into the art world as sneak in. He’d heard about Mural Arts Philadelphia’s programs at Graterford state prison, where he was serving a 5-to-10-year sentence. So one day, he got a pass to go to the library but crept into the auditorium to crash a Mural Arts meeting instead — even though the punishment for being caught in an unauthorized location would be 90 days in solitary. ‘But I had to take a chance,’ he said. ‘I made a plan within my mind that I was going to be an artist when I got out.’ This week, Craig and Jesse Krimes — another up-and-coming Philadelphia artist who served time in federal prison for drug charges — will debut their most ambitious project ever with Mural Arts Philadelphia. Called Portraits of Justice, it’s a large-scale, interactive public artwork right across from City Hall at the Municipal Services Building that incorporates visual art, a performance series, and a symposium.