Washington, DC– From January 5 through February 19, President Lincoln’s Cottage will partner with Justice Arts Coalition (JAC) on an exhibit titled Prison Reimagined: Presidential Portraits Project. The art in this exhibit was created entirely by artists living within the US carceral system and will feature presidential portraits on the walls of the Cottage paired with narratives of that president’s record on incarceration, and personal writings on life behind bars as well as poetic visions of what true justice could look like. This project is the creation of journalist Caddell Kivett, one of the editors of Nash News, who is currently incarcerated at the Nash Correctional Institution in North Carolina.
President Lincoln’s Cottage is an ideal home for such a bold and visionary installation. The Cottage’s commitment to fostering brave ideas stems from its history as a place where Abraham Lincoln made nation-changing decisions In the Summer of 1862, the Cottage provided Lincoln with the space to develop his ideas on emancipation. During his first season in residence, Lincoln met with political allies – and opponents – to think through options, and by September of 1862, he had completed his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
“President Lincoln’s Cottage is perhaps the most significant venue possible for Prison Reimagined, given the fact that Lincoln did end legal slavery with some exceptions,” said Kivett. “The modern Prison Industrial Complex traces its roots to slavery, through convict leasing and Jim Crow into the present.”
The power of art for those incarcerated goes beyond its significant therapeutic value. As Kivett put it, “Art can be a powerful tool to exercise your voice, to expose injustice, to influence people, and to tell our stories.”
Kivett and the other artists are creating art for the public, but also have a more specific audience in mind: our nation’s leaders. As he explained, “Prison Reimagined says to our leaders, ‘Hey! See the connection between mass incarceration and slavery!’ and ‘See the connection between Lincoln and yourself. You can be as bold!”
President Lincoln’s Cottage partnered with Justice Arts Coalition in 2019 on an exhibit entitled Iron Cages, which explored the contemporary state of the American Carceral system. “We are thrilled to be renewing our partnership with Justice Arts Coalition. Every day at the Cottage we think about what it means to be free and what it takes to rectify injustice. This exhibit will provide us new and relevant ways of continuing these important conversations,” said Callie Hawkins, CEO and Executive Director of President Lincoln’s Cottage.
Press will have the opportunity to preview the art on January 4, a day before it officially opens to the public. Members of the press can email [email protected] to secure a time slot.
Media contact: Rebecca Kilborne