Symposium: Bridges, Keynotes: Laurie Jo Reynolds & Shaun Leonardo
Walls Turned Sideways draws its title from a quote by political activist, academic, and author, Angela Davis: “Walls turned sideways are bridges.” The exhibition hopes to serve as a bridge or connecting conduit for conversation, contemplation, and change, recognizing the artist as a figure capable of changing society by bringing visibility to offenses within the justice system. This symposium, in partnership with the Tufts University Prison Initiative, touches on issues of community impact, reentry, and the role of educational initiatives.
Laurie Jo Reynolds is an artist, policy advocate, and researcher who has dedicated two decades of work to addressing the negative representations of people in prison. Focusing on the retributive extremes of solitary confinement and public conviction registries, Reynolds collaborates with justice advocates, state officials, cultural workers, and people directly affected by violence and incarceration to encourage policies that effectively prevent victimization and that restore and rehabilitate, rather than damage, people in the justice system. Reynolds also collaborated with former and current inmates, their families, and other artists to launch Tamms Year Ten, a volunteer grassroots legislative campaign seeking to reform or close Tamms Correctional Center, a notorious Illinois state supermax prison designed for sensory deprivation. Tamms supermax was shuttered on January 4, 2013, in part the campaign’s efforts. Reynolds’s recent work has focused on conviction registries, housing banishment laws, and public exclusion zones, which destabilize families and lead to unemployment, incarceration, and homelessness.
Shaun Leonardo’s multidisciplinary work negotiates societal expectations of manhood—namely definitions surrounding black and brown masculinities—along with its notions of achievement and collective identity and the experience of failure. His performance practice, anchored by his work in Assembly, a diversion program for court-involved youth, is participatory in nature and invested in a process of embodiment. A Brooklyn-based artist originally from Queens, Leonardo received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Creative Capital, Guggenheim Social Practice, Art for Justice, and A Blade of Grass have supported his practice, and he was recently profiled in the New York Times. His work has been featured at the Guggenheim Museum, the High Line, and Recess, with a current exhibition at the New Museum. Leonardo joined Pratt Institute as the School of Art Visiting Fellow in fall 2018.