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Art & Storytelling Events

Call for Artists: Empathy is the Seed 

Let’s Get Free’s 5th Annual Art Show 
Featuring artists on both sides of the walls

Call for Art and Poems 

This art show is open to people currently in prison and people on the outside.This year’s show will have both online and in person elements. Select pieces will be shown in the physical gallery. All entries will be entered into the contest. 

This year’s theme: Empathy is the Seed, Truth is the Water, Solidarity is the Bloomage 

This is a recipe we think is crucial to shifting our world from the paradigm of punishment to that of healing. 

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Truth: the quality or state of being in accordance with fact or reality Solidarity: unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group. Bloomage: The blossoms or bloom of a plant or area taken collectively.

Submissions: 
We love receiving artwork connected to the theme.

Visual Art: All mediums welcome, no size restrictions. Illustrations, collage, paintings, sculpture, charcoal, textiles, cross stitch, sculpture, blankets…   

Poetry: We’re adding poetry to our art show this year! This is a new addition to our annual art show so our process is unfolding. We welcome your poems. 

Deadline to Submit Art: August 30, 2021
Art Show Sign Up Form

The show will open in mid November and have in person and online elements. Feel free to reach out if you can’t make the deadline. 

Send Art and Poems To: Let’s Get Free: 460 Melwood Ave #300, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213:

Please include: Title, Medium and artists statement 

Digital Only pieces will not be accepted this year, If you are an outside digital artist please send us a physical copy of your art to be considered in the contest. 

Let’s Get Free’s 5th Annual Art Show is a fundraiser. By submitting art or poems to the show you are consenting for your art to be auctioned and sold to raise money to support Let’s Get Free. 

This is a contest. Like last year, there will be two contest categories: Artists on the Inside and Artists on the Outside.The contest categories and prizes will be a little different this year than last year if you participated in that show.

Prizes for Artists/Poets on the Inside

Visual Art Prizes
Piece that best expresses Empathy: $100
Piece that best expresses Solidarity: $100
Piece that best expresses Truth: $100
Piece that best ties the theme all together: $100
Best use of materials $100
Best Textile: $100
People’s Choice Award: $100

Poetry Prizes

Poem that best ties the theme all together: $100
People’s Choice Award: $100

Prizes for Artists/Poets on the Outside

Visual Artists in Solidarity Prizes

Piece that best ties the theme all together: $100
People’s Choice Award: $100

Poets in Solidarity Prizes

Poem that best ties the theme all together: $100
People’s Choice Award: $100

Scholarships for Art Supplies: If you are incarcerated and participated in our contest last year or any of our previous art shows, you are eligible for an art supply scholarship if you are planning to participate in this year’s show. Please write for more details. There is a limited number of scholarships with priority to women and trans prisoners. 

T H A N K Y O U

Deadline to Submit Art: August 30, 2021
Art Show Sign Up Form

Categories
Art & Storytelling Take Action

Monthly Donor Drive and Print Sale

Our goal is to sign up 25 new monthly donors in the month of December. Whaddya say? Can you chip in a little a month to support people in prison in PA.

Monthly sustainers are a critical part of community organizing and help us gather unrestricted funds. This money is used for: direct assistance to people in prison and returning citizens (hard to write a grant for that) stamps, printing newsletters and commutation kits, speaker stipends as well as transportation costs to visit prisons, the state capitol and faraway meetings and conferences. 

As of December 2020 we have 34 persistent givers making everything we do possible!!
They are donating at levels of $5 up to $30 a month!

Your $5 a month becomes $60 over the year.
Your $10 a month becomes $120 over the year.
Your $20 a month becomes $240 over the year.
Your $25 a month becomes $300 over the year.
Your $30 a month becomes $360 over the year.

If you sign up to be a monthly sustainer giving at least $10 a month in December, you can get a free print! If you are already a sustainer and want to up your giving by $5 a month you get a print too! After you sign up, we will email you to get your print order and shipping or Pittsburgh pick up details. You can view all the print options by looking at the print sale website below.

Categories
Art & Storytelling Events Take Action

Yes on Commutation! Week Of Events

Week of Events to Support Fair Commutation and People in Prison
Virtual Gallery Tours of the End Death by Incarceration Art Contest:
Sundays in August August 23 and 30th
at 11am, 12pm & 1pm EST – 30 minutes

Zoom Link for gallery tour at Our Link Tree

Contact to set up ASL or plan a specific group tour that fits your schedule. [letsgetfreepa@gmail.com]


Write letters of support to the 22 Commutation Applicants
Tuesday August 24 – 9am

This Tuesday morning, Letters from Home will be dedicated to sending messages of support to the people waiting for their hearings on September 4th. You can try to imagine how emotionally full this time of waiting can be. If you can’t make the 9am zoom gathering you can access the spreadsheet here. You can find a tab at the bottom of the spreadsheet that says “commutation”. Zoom Link for Letters from Home at our Link Tree


The Final August Premiere of the Life Cycles Toward Freedom Films featuring Stanley Mitchell and Saleem Holbrook
Tuesday August 25th from 7 – 8:30 EST.
Register here.

Featuring 3 new short films and special guests Stanley Mitchell and Robert Saleem Holbrook. If you have already seen the films tune in around 7:45 to see the 10 minute film about the Unger Ruling in Maryland which led to the release of 260 aging people with life sentences in 2012. Stanley was one of the people released 12 years ago.

If you don’t want to register and enter our zoom room, the events will be live streamed on our youtube channel


Yes on Commutation Rally
Thursday August 27th 9am City County Bldg – Pittsburgh

Join members of Let’s Get Free and the Dignity Act Now!Collective Pittsburgh in supporting applicants coming before the PA board of pardons on September 4th. Avis Lee, co creator of Let’s Get Free, is finally coming before the Board of Pardons after 40 years in prison. This is her 6th attempt at commutation! Because of COVID 19 these hearings will be held virtually and we will be unable to show the court support in the way we would ordinarily if allowed to enter the hearing.


Outside Film Screening and Social Distance Hang
Sunday August 30th – 7 – 8:30pm
Register Here (not necessary but helpful)
We are gonna social distance and wear masks 🙂

400 Roup Ave. In the parklet behind the Aldi in friendship.

Bring your own chair. Bring your own food 🙂 We will have fresh juice and beverages and snacks and bug spray! We will also have t-shirts for sale! We will screen the life cycles movies and more. Movies start at 8:30. Katina, a good friend of Tameka Flowers is coming all the way from Greensburg to talk about Tameka who is featured in one of the films. Rain date the following Sunday – September 6th.

Yay! Facebook Event


More action steps to take on the Life Cycles Toward Freedom Website

Categories
Art & Storytelling Events

Film Screenings & Art Show

Join us on August 18th!

[Image Description: Naomin Blount and Brandon Flood are pictured at the top and bottom of the is graphic which revelas only thier eyes and noses. The center of the graphic has event information which is listed below]

Tuesday August 18th from 7 – 8:30 EST. Featuring 3 new short films and special guests Naomi Blount and Brandon Flood. If you don’t want to register and enter our zoom room, the events will be live streamed on our youtube channel

Register for August 18th Film Screening

This Screening is endorsed by: Re/Creation, The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, ALC Courtwatch, Families for Justice as Healing, Three Rivers Community Foundation, Amistad Law Project, End Solitary Santa Cruz County [CA, USA], California Coalition for Women Prisoners, College and Community Fellowship, Human Rights Coalition Fed-Up!, Women of Color Global Women’s Strike, The Philadelphia Justice Project for Women and Girls, Reconstruction Inc, Pittsburghers for Public Transit and Islamic Communication Network.


Virtual Tours of the End Death by Incarceration Art Gallery

[Image description: This announcement for the gallery show is spelled out in mint green refrigerator magnets on a black fridge.There are bright yellow and purple flowers off to the left. A photograph of a painting of an anatomical heart is stuck to the fridge with a magnet. ]

Sundays in August
August 23rd and 30th
at 11am, 12pm & 1pm EST
30 minutes

Take 30 minutes of your day to view some of the 63 pieces of art submitted to our art show including 18 artists creating from prison and 27 artists working in solidarity.

Contact to set up ASL or plan a specific tour that fits your schedule. [letsgetfreepa@gmail.com]

Zoom Link for gallery tour at our Link Tree
https://linktr.ee/womeninprison

[Bright purple, pink red and orange make up the water color portrait of a women breaking apart bluish grey bars with the quote, ” Second Chances are first choices for Redemption” – Kristen Edmundson, Kristen is currently serving Life Without Parole at SCI-Muncy. Artwork by Morgan Overton
Categories
Art & Storytelling Events

Virtual Art Opening August 7th

[Image Description: A bright water color portrait of a women’s face looking up representing hope and her arm raised breaking apart bars representing freedom. There are few green leaves woven into her flowing hair representing ‘turning a new leaf’. The text reads End Death by Incarceration Virtual Art Opening – August 7th 7 – 8:30pm. Register at lifecyclestowardfreedom.org Artwork by Morgan Overton]

Our 4th annual art show is going virtual!! Please join us for our online opening on August 7th at 7pm. We will take you on a virtual tour of the End Death By Incarceration Art Show which is also a contest!! 

There are two categories – Artists in Prison and Artists in Solidarity. 6 prizes for each category! Top prize $500. We need you to vote for these People’s Choice Awards!! So far 17 artists in each category have submitted artwork, which means over 30 new original pieces of ART!!!

Nicole Fleetwood who recently published Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration will pass through from 7:30 to 8pm and we will also be graced with one of our favorite artists James Yaya Hough! 

In addition to the virtual tour you will hear from participating artists including from one of our long time friends on the inside Todd ‘Hyung Rae’ Tarselli talking about his submission he made from instant coffee – a portrait of a man in solitary confinement. 

Life Cycles Toward Freedom August Event Series Overview (All events will have live closed captioning and will be lived streamed on youtube. The films are 35 minutes total.)

  • August 7: Friday – 7 – 8:30 pm End Death by Incarceration Art Show
    • Opening Register Here for August 7th
    • Virtually Tour the Art Contest! You can vote and leave a message for the artists!
    • Special Guest: Nicole Fleetwood author of Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration and artist James Yaya Hough
  • August 11: Tuesday – 7 – 8:30 pm Virtual Film Screening Premier
    • This evening’s special guest is musician BL Shirelle. BL Shirelle knows many of the women featured in the films and is the Deputy Director of Die Jim Crow Records a non profit record label for currently and formerly incarcerated people. BL will be performing a couple songs from the recently released album – Assata Twoi.
    • Register Here for August 11th

  • August 18: Tuesday 7 – 8:30pm Virtual Film Screening
    • Special Guests: Naomi Blount is the 2nd woman to receive commutation in the state of PA in 30 years. (Invited Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Brandon Flood)
    • Register Here for August 18th

  • August 25: Tuesday – 7 – 8:30pm Virtual Film Screening
    • Special Guests: Stanley Mitchell who was released 7 years ago under the 2012 “Unger” Ruling. We will hear how the state of Maryland managed a mass release of aging prisoners.
    • Additional Screening: The Ungers: A Matter of Time 10 minutes
    • Register Here for August 25th
Categories
Art & Storytelling Events

Second Chances for Women Sentenced to Die in PA Prisons – August Film Release

Tameka Flowers is pictured above in this still from “We are more than our worst day” One of the three short films being released this August.

Let’s Get Free and The Women Lifers Resume Project are releasing a multi-media campaign uplifting the stories of women and trans people serving death by incarceration called Life Cycles Toward Freedom. This August, the campaign launch will include a series of virtual film screenings, and in collaboration with Boom Concepts, will host an online art contest. The End Death By Incarceration Art Contest virtually opens on August 7 and runs through the end of October where attendees can take a tour of the art and hear from formerly incarcerated artist James “YaYa” Hough.  

The aims of this project are to raise awareness, build support and to spark dialogue that may change the commutation process.

Each film screening will showcase the latest series of short films produced by Tusko which features currently incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. The films offer unique access to maximum security prison SCI Muncy and SCI Cambridge Springs. The films raise a number of pressing law and order issues: Does the commutation process need updating? Is LWOP out of date? Do these women have more to offer society?

Water color portrait of a women breaking apart bars with the quote, ” Second Chances are first choices for Redemption” – Kristen Edmundson, currently serving Life Without Parole at SCI-Muncy. Artwork by Morgan Overton


On average Pennsylvania spends $42,727 a year per person in prison and this cost jumps to an estimated $52,000 for people over the age of 55. The women featured in the film have served three decades, four decades, and more. Experts agree they represent no threat yet they are left without hope of seeing home again – they are just “dying out loud”.

The film entitled Pennsylvania’s Commutation Process: Naomi Blount’s Experience takes you on one woman’s journey through the lengthy and arduous steps of the commutation process in hope of freedom. Naomi Blount was the second woman to receive commutation in the last 30 years and has been home for one year. Lt. Governor John Fetterman, a leader in PA’s commutation reform, is also featured in this film. 

We Are More Than Our Worst Day, is a powerful 12 minute short that radiates resilience and the power to change that is widespread amongst people with death by incarceration sentences. This poignant vignette features the transformative journeys of Tequilla Fields, a leading church figure, and Tameka Flowers, a dancer, who are both seeking commutation. 


The idea for the film You Deserve Better Than Prison: Messages to Youth from Women Serving Life was that of Avis Lee, who is currently awaiting a public hearing that will decide her freedom. This short piece offers some words of wisdom from women who are spending their life behind bars and warns people about what it’s like in Pennsylvania’s prison system. 

People with life sentences make up the vast majority of the aging prison population, including Alice Green, who will be turning 90 this August. For the many sick and aging individuals in PA prisons, the spread of the Covid virus looms as a threat to life in an environment that is a breeding ground for contagious disease. The commutation process that is supposed to address inappropriate sentencing and offer relief to these individuals has been functionally frozen for more than three decades. This is an immediate crisis inside of the larger crisis of harsh and excessive sentencing; we demand clemency.

The Life Cycles Toward Freedom campaign is made possible by financial support from The Open Society Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Opportunity Fund. 

August 2020 Life Cycles Toward Freedom Calendar of Events

  • August 11: Tuesday – 7 – 8:30 pm Virtual Film Screening Premier
    • Special Guest BL Shirelle: Confirmed!
    • Register Here for August 11th
  • August 18: Tuesday 7 – 8:30pm Virtual Film Screening
    • Special Guests: Naomi Blount
    • [ Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Brandon Flood invited]
    • Register Here for August 18th
  • August 25: Tuesday – 7 – 8:30pm Virtual Film Screening
    • Special Guests: Stanley Mitchell released in 2012 under the “Unger Ruling
    • Additional Screening: The Ungers: A Matter of Time
    • Register Here for August 25th

Categories
Art & Storytelling Events

End Death by Incarceration Art Contest

IMG-2877Details about contest here

Goal: To raise awareness about death by incarceration, particularly uplifting the experiences of women and trans people sentenced to life without parole in Pennsylvania.

Note: Death by Incarceration [DBI] is another way saying Life Without Parole [LWOP]

Theme: We have surveyed all the women and trans lifers in PA serving DBI that we know of, and over 50 people responded. They have sent slogans, messages to the public and ideas for you to use. When you sign up for the contest you will have access to this information to help you in the creation of your art.

We have identified the following topics that we particularly want to uplift, you are encouraged to create your art with one of these focuses in mind: Aging in Prison, Commutation, Compassionate/Medical Release, Restorative Justice, Redemption & Resilience, Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence as it relates to DBI and Crime & Safety. Resources on these topics are here

Who can enter? Anyone can enter. There will be two categories, one for artists in prison and one for artists in solidarity. You can enter more than one piece. Please fill out this form to enter. To sign up an artist you know in prison, fill out their information on the form and we will send them a contest packet.

What is the medium? 2-D images preferred. Painting, drawing, watercolor, screenprint, digital graphic, cross stitch.

What is the size? No bigger than 25” inches by 21”  No smaller than 8.5” by 11” Portrait or Vertical orientation is preferred but not mandatory.

What’s in it for you? All contest submissions will be shown at Boom Concepts for the entire month of August in Pittsburgh, with the show opening on Friday August 7th, 2020 (potentially additional shows)  All participants will receive documentation from the show. Potential prize money. With your consent, your image may end up in a newspaper ad, as a poster or on a city bus. You will be generating awareness about an important cause. We are not planning to sell the art at this time.

When: Contest submissions due by June 30th. (Running late? Contact us)

Mail artwork to: Let’s Get Free – 460 Melwood Ave. #300 Pittsburgh, PA 15213

There is no entry fee. Artists incarcerated in Pennsylvania can be reimbursed for postage cost to mail art.

People’s Choice Cash Prize: There will be two categories: Artists in Prison and Artists in Solidarity. 6 prizes in each category.

1st Place:$500

2nd Place: $250

3rd Place: $100

Honorable Mention: $50 (3 recipients for each category)

Judging: The contest will be judged by the public the entire month of the show. All participants will be notified within a month.

Public Service Announcements: Let’s Get Free will draw from all the entries to pick out designs for the public graphic campaign. This campaign could take the form of posters, bus or newspaper advertisements. In other words, you don’t have to be a Public Choice winner for your art to get turned into an ad.

Contest Organizers: This contest is part of a multi-media public education campaign called Life Cycles Toward Freedom, a collaboration between Let’s Get Free and the Women’s Lifer Resume Project.

Questions? Contact: letsgetfreepa@gmail.com

Contest website: Life Cycles Toward Freedom

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 5.22.31 PM
“We are not what we have done. We are who we have become. “–quote by Sheena’ King

 

Categories
Art & Storytelling Events Take Action

“Glow Home” Opens October 4th – Event Series Overview

For the 3rd year running, Let’s Get Free teams up with Boom Concepts for a prison justice art fundraiser and series of events. 

Artists were asked to create work around the ideas of home and relationships to create a show that encapsulates the feeling of home: What does home look like? Feel like? A space? A state of mind? 

The call was to create things that literally glowed. People were encouraged to create work with ships and pun off concepts like relationSHIP, friendSHIP, leaderSHIP, etc.

Glow Home is an homage to friends old and new recently released from prison and a prayer that our loved ones still behind bars will be home soon. There will be an altar where you can leave something for a loved one who you wish to come home. 

Over 60 artists from both sides of the prison walls have submitted provocative pieces utilizing ceramics, photography, textiles, beadwork, silk screen, collage, stained glass, digital drawing, water colors etc. There are close to 100 pieces of art up for auction benefiting the work of this local prison advocacy group. The opening and auction will take place on October 4th from 6 – 10pm with the auction closing at 9pm. The show will stay up through October 26th.

Click on photos below a for a quick preview slide show.
Click here for more information on Glow Home

Overview of October Events

Gallery Hours for Glow Home  October 4th – 26th
Gallery Hours are every Thursday thru Saturday 1- 7pm and Sundays 1-4pm
Gallery Hours are suspended during events. Check Boom’s Calendar 

Liberate our Imaginations:  A Vital Step Towards a World Without PrisonsIMG_7463
October 12th – 12 – 3pm – Saturday
A 3 hour participatory workshop With Kempis Ghani Songster & etta cetera

Back by popular demand, Ghani Songster returns from Philly to lead an interactive space in effort to free ourselves from the mental chains  that inhibit our progress. Ghani believes that our salvation hinges on our ability to liberate our imagination. etta says, “It’s gonna be like going to the gym for your mind.” How do we stay connected to the bigger movement of abolition?

Listen to Ghani shares 5 Lessons of the Geese from last years workshop.

The event is free but please rsvp letsgetfreepa@gmail.com
Snacks will be provided


Blountly Speaking:
Lifting Up Women in Prison

Words and Songs by Naomi Blount, (Pending Travel Permission but we are speaking it into existence!) Followed by a Panel Discussion:  Impact of DA’s Office on Incarcerated Women with Lisa Middleman and local community leaders.

October 19th – 12pm – 3pm  Saturday @ Boom Concepts – 5139 Penn Ave
Free Lunch served at 1 pm

Naomi Blount, 69, is the second Pennsylvania woman to receive commutation in nearly three decades after serving 35 years of a life sentence. Released this past July, Naomi will share reflections of her experiences from prison to the commutation process as well as lift up the women she left behind.  Community leaders and Lisa Middleman, candidate for District Attorney, will then convene for a panel to speak on the impact that the DA’s office has on people impacted by the criminal injustice system. The event will conclude with a musical performance by Naomi.

The event is free but please rsvp letsgetfreepa@gmail.com


October Monthly Sustainer Drive

Collective Donations towards Collective Liberation!

Sign Up to be a sustaining donor during the month of October to help us reach our goal of 50 new monthly sustainers! You will receive a special Thank You Gift of your choosing including limited edition artwork or a bouncing baby house plant (Pittsburgh only:)

IMG_7433
Jade and Hoya babies will be gifted to people signing up at levels $ 20 & $25

Monthly sustainers are a critical part of community organizing and help us gather unrestricted funds. This money is used for: direct assistance to people in prison and returning citizens (hard to write a grant for that) stamps, printing newsletters and commutation kits, speaker stypens as well as transportation costs to visit prisons, the state capitol and faraway meetings and conferences. 

Our goal is to sign up: 

20 Sustainers @ $5 a month
15 Sustainers @ $10 a month
10 Sustainers @ $15 a month
5 Sustainers @ $20 a month
5 Sustainers @ $25 a month

If achieved would raise collectively $575 a Month. Simply click the donate button and check the “recurring donation box”


Come to Harrisburg with the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration

Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration(CABDI)
Day of Action to End DBI & Heal Communities 
October 23rd – 7am – 7pm Wednesday in Harrisburg
Sign up for Vans from Pittsburgh by filling out this form

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Art & Storytelling Resources

Real Stories: Dying Out Loud

Please watch this new 18 minute documentary produced by Real Stories featuring women in prison at SCI-Muncy. It’s called Dying Outloud.

This film features Diane Metzger who passed away this month in prison. We send our deepest condolences out to her family both in and outside of prison. Diane was 69 years old at the time of her death. Her crime, not turning in her husband who killed his ex-wife, is explained in the video. In 1989 Diane received approval from the Board of Pardons for a commutation of her life sentence, but was then denied by Governor Bob Casey.

All women featured in the documentary did not commit the murders they are serving life sentences for. They were in the car, the other room, took a plea, etc. Below are two quotes by professionals attempting to understand why the system comes down harder on women than men.  (Please pardon the binary)

“There is more tolerance for male violence than there is for female violence because female violence is so rare.” – Brian O’Neil, criminologist

“There is a long standing assumption that men commit crime because they are bad or in economic need. For women, the idea that women would commit a crime is a violation of their feminine nature … that they are deviant by virtue for violating a larger cultural norm about femininity.”
–Dr. Jill McCorkel, PHD

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Art & Storytelling Events

Letters & Liberation 2018 Art Show

Letters & Liberation
An Art Show and Fundraiser for Prison Justice

—————————— Facebook Event

Let’s Get Free, The Women & Trans Prisoner Defense Committee, teams up with Boom Concepts for the 2nd year in a row displaying a new exhibit called Letters and Liberation.

Over 40 artists from both sides of the prison walls have submitted provocative pieces utilizing ceramics, photography, textiles, silk screen, collage, stained glass, drawing, etc. There are close to 100 pieces of art up for auction benefiting the work of this local prison advocacy group. The opening and auction will take place on July 6 from 6 – 10pm with the auction closing at 9pm. The show will stay up through July 29th with gallery hours on Saturdays from 12 – 4pm.

Flower Letters with a Felt Chain by Cris Amann

Letters are an everyday part of being in prison or having a loved one incarcerated. Letters are instrumental in organizing for justice with people in prison. Letters are conduits for relationships. Letters can be the only tangible thread connecting people to their loved ones. And if you don’t throw those letters away for 18 years, you can collect quite a few. Inspiration for this show came when etta cetera, co-founder of Let’s Get Free, was searching for a creative way to release the hundreds and hundreds of letters she has amassed over years of maintaining friendships with people in prison and organizing for justice in the prisons. “I didn’t want to just throw them away. I like the idea of transforming them into art and letting that energy go.”

Ceramic Bowl by Paula Levin

Not all of the art is made from letters. Some of the art is inspired by reading letters. Paula Levin created a ceramic bowl after reading a letter by Khalifa Diggs. The bowl is glazed on the outside weaving Khalifa’s words with prison bars, “I have seen the ancestors and I have got to get to….where?”  Khalifa passed away last December after spending close to 40 years in prison. This is why people call life sentences in PA death sentences. People are dying. Let’s Get Free is one of the founding groups of the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration West (CADBIWest). Part of the proceeds from last year’s benefit went to pay for traveling expenses for many members to attend CADBI’s statewide rallies, meetings with lawmakers, the juvenile lifer day at Muncy prison, hearings for juvenile lifers, and statewide strategy meetings.

Making Connections Between Border Walls and Prison Walls

Shayla, Luz and Alex at a vigil for their dad Martín Esquivel-Hernandez

The youngest participants to submit art created out of letters are Shayla (age 13) and Luz (age 10), the daughters of MartÍn Esquivel- Hernandez. On May 1st, 2016 MartÍn Esquivel-Hernandez led the annual Mayday March for Workers and Immigrant Rights in Pittsburgh. He held a large banner with his wife that read, “Not One More Deportation.” On May 2nd, 2016, MartÍn was taken by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) at 6am in front of his family. They have not seen or hugged him since. Martin wrote this letter while he was detained for 9 months before being deported, and addressed it to ICE. His daughters Shayla and Luz redacted the letter by blocking out many words to create a new letter addressed to anyone in positions of power to stop separating families.

Shayla is tired of phone calls being the only way to be with her father. Luz barely remembers what he looks like. His wife, Alma, hasn’t seen him in over 2 years. And Alex, MartÍn’s youngest son (age 6), talks about him everyday. There is no hope for his return to the US, and his wife and children cannot visit him in Mexico. Cases like this are happening everyday, in Pittsburgh, nationwide, and worldwide. Families are being destroyed and separated. Parents are being forced to go to sleep, forever apart and without their children and families. Children are growing up in torn-apart families, surrounded by trauma. This isn’t right. Another world is possible.

[For more information on MartÍn, please this in-depth article written by Ryan Deto]

Have you ever thought about how militarized borders create open air prisons? In addition to Shayla and Luz’s letter, which demonstrates the similarities between the struggles of family members separated by prison walls and border walls, there are quite a few artists represented from México.  We are thrilled to exhibit two Puebla City artists, Esmeralda Juarez and Oscar Garcia, who both designed unique linoleum cuts especially for this show. More linoleum cuts from Andrea Narno and Grabiel of the radical print shop Escuela de Cultura Popular Martires del 68  in México City. This community art space was born out of the student uprisings in 68. Lastly, from México we will feature a portrait of Mumia Abu-Jamal by Zamer, who created art in honor of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s birthday, which was celebrated in April across the world and in México City! Free Mumia!

Artists on the Inside

Let’s Have a Conversation by Bruce Bainbridge

From Muncy prison, Amanda Hein sent a very detailed embroidery of a typewriter reading the words, “I’m writing home to tell you.”  From Graterford prison, Bruce Bainbridge sent a small table with four chairs made out of brightly colored popsicle sticks. He has called this piece Let’s Have a Conversation.  From Fayette Prison Todd “Hyung-Rae” Tarselli has submitted a captivating portrait of Malcolm X. In different shades of pencil, Malcolm’s face is constructed with words like “sister, community, love, strength, change, movement.”

James “Ya Ya” Hough  has only one year left of his juvenile life sentence.  He is returning to Pittsburgh in 2019 and hopes to pursue a career as an artist. The piece he submitted is a  mixed-media painting which incorporates a peach pit. Let’s Get Free is so excited to showcase his work and we can’t wait to welcome him home.

Janet Africa by Donna Martorano

Members of Let’s Get Free met Donna Martorano and Marsha Scaggs last summer on the first group visit to the Cambridge Springs prison. Marsha and her roomate Rachel submitted two charming tiny cross stitches one reading “Live, Love, Laugh” and the other reading “Let’s Get Free”.  Donna submitted 5 pieces including two large landscape paintings and two portraits of Janet Africa, one in pencil and one in charcoal. Janet Africa is a member of the Move organization and has been in prison since the 80s. The MOVE Organization is a group of mostly black, freedom- and nature- loving activists who were living in Philadelphia from the early 1970s to early 80s. The Philadelphia police department dropped a bomb on their house from a helicopter on May 13, 1985, silencing their central figure, John Africa. Did you know that Pennsylvania incarcerates the country’s most political prisoners?

Local Artists Create for the Cause

Abolitionist Medallion by kiln tender ceramics

Kiln Tender Ceramics has created a limited edition of cast ceramic prison abolitionist medallions inspired by 18th century coins made by abolitionists of slavery. Larger than a silver dollar, these ceramic pieces fit in the palm of your hand with one side reading “ Until we all are free” with hands breaking out of chains, while the other side features 3 famous abolitionists of past and present – Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, and Patrisse Kahn-Cullors.

Jenn Gooch has created a weaving that stretches 10 feet wide utilizing over 30 letters from prisoners. While working on the piece that spells out “REDEMPTION,” Jenn posted on instagram, “ Tragic weft. Weaving with strips of letters from prisoners for @womeninprison‘s upcoming show. The heaviest thing I’ve ever woven. The weight of these words, and their sound—it’s crushing and deafening, yet paper-thin.”

Sue Abramson who used the letters from prisoners as negatives. Placing the letter in its entirety directly onto photo paper reveals compelling black and white scribblings that almost look like a new language.

Lataya Johnson, an artist from McKeesport, contributed a hanging lantern made completely with letters.

Photo by Juliette Angotti

Juliette Angotti, a french photographer living in Delaware, corresponded with 5 people incarcerated in Pennsylvania and asked them three questions:

   If you were a photographer or had access to a camera, what would you photograph?

     What images define liberation for you?

     What do you miss most from outside of prison?

They responded and Juliette took photos based on those replies. 5 photographs from this series and responses from the people incarcerated will be on display.

Collaboration with Avis Lee from LifeLines

Lifelines is a Philadelphia based media/cultural project conducted in extensive, long-term collaboration with eight people serving Life Sentences Without Parole or Death By Incarceration sentences in Pennsylvania. Lifelines created an exhibit called How Are We Free. This visual art exhibit that explores the nature of freedom and confinement through creative collaboration between people who have been sentenced to die in prison and visual artists outside the prison walls. Lifelines is lending the exhibit several pieces to display in Pittsburgh!

Last year’s art fundraiser entitled Contraband was SO SUCCESSFUL! Over 100 pieces of art  sold and $5,000 was raised. A new program called Operation Break Bread was launched connecting people in Pittsburgh with women and trans prisoners incarcerated at Cambridge Springs Prison. Cambridge Springs is 2 hours north of Pittsburgh. Since the first visit last June  24 Pittsburghers were linked with different people serving time. You can read some of the visiting chronicles on Let’s Get Free’s instagram page. Scroll down to see the visit pics- most have a reddish background.  You will be able to sign up to visit women at Cambridge Springs at the art opening.

Let’s Get Free is hoping to raise another $5,000 to support our work for the next year! Please come out on July 6th from 6 – 10 pm. Auction closes at 9pm. The show will be up the whole month of July with gallery hours on Saturdays from 12 – 4pm.

Overflowing gratitude to Boom Concepts for being such a gracious host and Justseeds  the radical artist cooperative headquartered in Pittsburgh, who for the 2nd year in a row has made a generous donation to this cause. Thank you to all the ARTISTS for the time, thought and care you put into submissions!!

Embroidery by Amanda Hein

List of Artists in no special order:

Artists from the so-called US: Sue Abramson, Alisha Wormsley, Edith Abetya, Lataya Johnson, Olivia Robinson, Jenn Gooch, Chip ‘Jetsonorama’ Thomas, Shaun Slifer, Jess X Snow, Bec Young, Mary Mack, T. Foley, Juliette Angotti, Merideth Stern, Alec Icky Dunn, Josh Macphee, Chris Amann, kiln tender ceramics, Paula Levin, etta cetera, Shayla & Luz Esquivel, Hope Amico, Ken Boe, Ally Reeves, Jane Hein, Ellen Melchiondo, Leslie Stem, Alina Del Pino, Daniel Nelson, Hannah de Plessis, Andrea Chiotti, Devon Cohen, Maybe Sadeghi

Artists from Prison in the so-called US: Marsha Scaggs, Rachel, Amanda Hein, James Yaya Hough, Todd “Hyung-Rae” Tarselli , Cuong Tran, Avis Lee, Duane Montney, Ajamu O. Iyapo, Leonard Jefferson, Bruce Bainbridge, Donna Martorano, Cinque Michael Upchurch, Andre Coltom

Artists from Mexico: Esmeralda Juarez, Sanya Hyland, Oscar Garcia, Grabiel, Xozulu, Zamer, Mazatl, Andrea Narno

Want to connect?

etta cetera – 443-603-6964 – letsgetfreepa@gmail.com