The Arts and the Incarcerated Mind takes as its starting point the life and work of Martín Ramírez, a Mexican migrant laborer who came to the United States during the 1920s. In 1931, Ramírez was detained by police for vagrancy and interned in state psychiatric hospitals without due process until his death in 1963. During his time as a ward of the state, Ramírez created a distinctive body of drawings and collages without any previous artistic training. Today, he is recognized as an extraordinary self-taught master, and his artwork has become testament to the injustices of state incarceration, the artist’s psychological turmoil, and the therapeutic power of art.
The Arts and The Incarcerated Mind is a discussion between artists and activists about how to foster art programs for the incarcerated, exploring the benefits of these programs and the difficulties of their implementation. The discussion will address a number of questions, including how such programs can bring new freedom to inmates through expression and engagement, and how activists can work together to change state and local policy.
Maria Gaspar is an interdisciplinary artist negotiating the politics of location and geography through installation, sculpture, sound, and performance. Gaspar has exhibited at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA; and the Alpineum Produzentengalerie in Luzern, Switzerland. Gaspar is the recipient of a Creative Capital Award, a Joan Mitchell Emerging Artist Grant, a Robert Rauschenberg Artist As Activist Fellowship, and a Sor Juana Women of Achievement Award in Art and Activism from the National Museum of Mexican Art. Gaspar is Assistant Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Kaile Shilling is the Executive Director of the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network (AIYN), an interdisciplinary collaborative of ten member organizations that provides arts programming to youth in detention facilities. AIYN works to build resiliency and wellness, eliminate recidivism, and transform the juvenile justice system. Prior to the AIYN, Kaile served as Executive Director for the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, an organization serving hundreds of nonprofits across Los Angeles County. Her expertise lies in promoting networking and collaboration among community- and faith-based organizations and promoting cross-field dialogue and partnership.
Fabian Debora is the founder of La Clase Art Academy, which provides access to the arts for youth and adults who have been impacted by gang violence. After many years of personal gang affiliation, addiction, and conflict, Debora found a pathway out of violence through Homeboy Industries, and subsequently became a counselor for young adults experiencing similar issues. Fabian is also a partner with the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network, offering art instruction at the Tehachapi Correctional Institution. He believes that art is a tool for healing, expression, and community education.
Cristina Pacheco is an activist, producer, and nonprofit consultant based in Los Angeles. She has worked with local, state, and national organizations and movements at the intersection of civic engagement, social justice, and arts practice. Previously, Cristina served as the Director of Programs at Arts for LA, where she created the ACTIVATE Arts Advocacy Leadership Program, training community arts advocates in areas of policy, leadership, coalition building, and communication. Cristina serves on the Board of Directors for The Underground Museum in Los Angeles, the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Employment Equity for the City of Los Angeles, and is one of the founders of Artivists into Action.