About the Mural
Mass incarceration has touched the lives of many Philadelphians, either directly or indirectly, because Philadelphia is the most-incarcerated major city in America.
Portraits of Justice invites us to change the way that we see the individuals involved in our city’s criminal justice system. This interactive mural depicts 17 system-involved young people from our Restorative Justice Guild program, set against a brick background that symbolizes the systems that create barriers to reentry. These larger-than-life portraits remind all who see them that formerly incarcerated individuals are valuable human beings with rich, complex lives and the capacity for change, not problems to be solved.
Portraits of Justice in Progress
These individuals have navigated the complex maze of our city’s criminal justice system, in which young people of color are overrepresented, and now serve as symbols of both personal and system-wide transformation. The project inverts negative depictions of young people of color, who are often subject to racially disparate policing and enforcement.
Artist Russell Craig (a Guild graduate) served as a teaching artist for the 2018 Guild cohort, and painted their portraits for this installation, which was designed in collaboration with artist Jesse Krimes (also a Guild graduate). The cohort created artwork in workshops with Craig, and supported painting and renovations at Feltonville Recreation Center (on behalf of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation), as well as contributing to several other mural projects in the city.
So how can we build on this foundation and collaborate with others? By making sure that we focus on and listen to those affected most by the criminal justice system.
Portraits of Justice was also the setting for public events around the 2018 Reimagining Reentry Fellowship, and the conversation-starter for a symposium at the University of Pennsylvania on November 3, 2018.
The Art for Justice Fund, a recently launched initiative founded by Agnes Gund in collaboration with the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
The project is in collaboration with the City of Philadelphia’s MacArthur Foundation-supported Safety and Justice Challenge initiative. Partners include Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Partners: City of Philadelphia, First Judicial District, District Attorney, and Defender Association as well as the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and School of Design.