New Orleans, LA
States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories is the first national traveling multi-media exhibition and coordinated public dialogue to explore the history and future of mass incarceration in the United States. The Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies and the Department of History at the University of New Orleans partnered with a New School-led coalition of 500 university students and formerly incarcerated individuals from 20 cities to create the traveling exhibition, which launched in New York City in April 2016.
The exhibition and project, the culmination of two years of planning and discussion between the communities, is a national public reckoning with one of the most pressing issues facing our country. Using many tools of truth and reconciliation processes, the 20 communities explored the deep historical roots of incarceration, shared personal stories related to the issue, and strategized ways of enacting policy change. In each location, the traveling exhibition and public programs will focus on an issue of incarceration that is unique to that community. UNO’s contribution to the States of Incarceration focuses on the history of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and the convict lease system in the early 20th century. In addition, UNO students conducted a postcard exchange with those currently incarcerated at Angola, which culminated in the online exhibit Stories from Prison.
Over the past year, with support from UNO’s History Department, the Midlo Center produced public programming for States of Incarceration, in collaboration with community partners including Voice of the Experienced (V.O.T.E.), Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, WWNO’s Unprisoned series, The Beat Within, local schools, and local artists.
Alongside the traveling exhibition, the project will also present Picturing a World Without Prisons: Young Artists Confront the Carceral State, an exhibition of young people’s artwork exploring the theme of incarceration and reflecting on a future with fewer prisons. The pieces were created in a series of artist-led workshops for local students, including those at the Travis Hill School in the Youth Studies Center, a youth detention center in New Orleans.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website