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Women in Re-Entry and Re-Entry Think Tank, two drumbeats of decarceration

In this first of three posts about active community art projects you should know about, Roberta writes about Mark Strandquist and Courtney Bowles's People's Paper Co-op project, Re-Entry Think Tank, supported by the Velocity Fund and an allied project, Women in Re-Entry. Both projects empower men and women in prison or just out with financial support to work together, advocate, help others, and make art. It's all about change.

poster by Rose Jaffe for Women in Re-Entry project 2019
poster by Rose Jaffe for Women in Re-Entry project 2019

I spoke to Mark Strandquist of People’s Paper Co-op to catch up with what he and partner Courtney Bowles are doing.  I know Mark and Courtney from Artblog’s Artist and Social Responsibility project in 2014-15, in which they were speakers.  Mark and Courtney have been working in the incarceration/decarceration field for a long time.  Their Velocity Fund project, Re-Entry Think Tank, is going well, Mark said, with Fellows creating work and doing collaborative projects in advocacy last Fall and this Spring. My Q&A with Mark about the Think Tank is below.  But first, I want to tell you what’s going on right now, today, in fact.  It’s the start of the PPC’s Third Annual Women in Re-Entry Mother’s Day “Free Our Mama’s” bailout project.

Women in Re-Entry Project

What’s going on this weekend?
It’s People’s Paper Co-op’s third annual Women in Re-entry Day. Faith Bartley and the women worked on photos and poetry that they sent to artists around the country, who designed posters printed on paper made from shredded police records.

Faith Bartley holding a poster made in this year's Women in Re-Entry Project of the People's Paper Co-Op
Faith Bartley holding a poster made in this year’s Women in Re-Entry Project of the People’s Paper Co-Op

There’s a bail out Today (Friday 5/9/19) to get mothers out of jail for Mothers Day. And a bus stop pop up exhibit outside the prison. People can still donate for art – posters, t-shirts – to free moms (at the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund site, a partner on the project.

Tuesday 5/14, there’s a press conference in City Hall and a parade to Broad Street Ministry for an exhibition and symposium. See Facebook Event page for more on Tuesday’s events.

Mark shared the moving video below, which is debuting today, made by Peoples Paper Coop in conjunction with Village of Arts and Humanities and the Women in ReEntry. Watch the video on Vimeo or see it here below.

Back to the Velocity Fund and the Re-Entry Think Tank project

Why did you apply to the Velocity Fund?
We applied because we had worked with Temple Contemporary before and had nothing but good experiences. The trust was there already. Besides that, we always need funding.

What is the project?
The Project is Re-Entry Think Tank. 100% of the project funds went to the Re-Entry Fellows, who are formerly incarcerated folks who are nominated by organizations (to participate). We’ve done these paid fellowships since 2015 – we’ve paid around $30,000 so far directly to Fellows.

People use the fellowships to work on advocacy campaigns and events about people in re-entry; to advocate for better treatment for these folks…like opening up college applications to people with records, (something that is closed to them now). We work with Legal Services. We did a pop up at a City Council hearing; the Fellows were invited to speak and gave each Council person a package of art made by the fellows.

Was the application hard?
It’s been so long since we submitted that I can’t remember, haha. I appreciated it when we got the grant.

What else did you appreciate about the process?
Velocity Fund set up a tax workshop for artists who received the grants. Other places do tax workshops for artists (Leeway, others) but here it was great to have a small group discussion. And it was on the same day as the launch event. That was nice – we got to meet everybody. I am always excited to work, listen and learn what folks are struggling with or passionate about.I wish there could have been more cross-project talking and/or mentoring with Temple Contemporary.

Should people apply for the Velocity Fund?
Yes! I 100% would encourage anybody to apply.

[ Ed. Note: Deadline to submit applications to Velocity Fund’s 2019 open call is June 7, 2019.]
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