From the minds of Restorative Justice Director Greg Corbin and internationally known, award-winning photographer Ken McFarlane comes Transformation. Transformation is a narrative-shifting campaign that explores the deficiencies in the storyline impacting returning citizens while uplifting the assets, gifts, and talents of those impacted by the criminal justice system. Countless returning citizens have proven time and again that your mistake does not have to be your narrative. We aim to give the opportunity for those who experienced incarceration to find their voice and shape a different storyline for themselves. Current Mural Arts’ Guild members and alumni have shown what happens when care and preparation meets opportunity and redemption.
Each time we see a billboard that showcases a wanted individual, there’s a mugshot and list of actions they are accused of committing. In most cases these individuals are Black or Brown men. Even more rare are wanted signs for women and White people. These images create a narrative that feeds on the deficiencies – not the assets – of the Black and Brown communities. We learn from what we see and respond to what is marketed to us. Imagine if these signs highlighted the better parts of society, starting with the people. We have the ability to tell a different story about the citizens of Philadelphia: Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Restorative Justice department has decided to tell the stories of transformed individuals who were once incarcerated and have since worked diligently to transform their lives, leaving a different legacy and story for those that follow them. Our Guild program and newest Women’s Reentry Program have strong foundations in mentorship and peer-leadership, which can inspire those early on their path of redemption and reentry.
In partnership with renowned Photographer Ken McFarlane, Mural Arts worked with Guild members to explore self portraiture, image, storytelling, and identity development. Through photography workshops, Guild members and participants of Mural Arts’ Women’s Reentry Pilot Program were photographed; they were even given control of the camera shutter to be able to control the image that was captured to tell their own story of transformation.
McFarlane and the Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice team curated nine portraits that have become a showcase on ClearChannel billboards throughout Philadelphia, reaching the communities of our Guild members and alumni. McFarlane chose to create polyptychs of each portrait to show past, present, and future selves in conversation. We also brought on poet Andrea Walls, founder of the Museum of Black Joy, to write an original sonnet to be featured along with the photographs for the billboard campaign. The mural featured behind each portrait was designed by Mural Arts’ very own Brad Carney!
We hope that by telling these stories of transformation we can begin to create a different narrative, dialogue, and conversation about what it takes to transform the lives of returning citizens. In a world of perspective we must be able to tell our story.
Thank you for seeing us
Julia & David Fleischner