jackie sumell


Arist2Artist Fellowship


I have spent the last twenty moving in and out of prisons, jails, and detention centers as a social practice artist, abolitionist, student, and advocate. Most of my work has been in relationships with people forced to serve their prison sentences in long-term solitary confinement. By proxy and praxis, my work demands that we collectively look into the systems we are complicit with in order to shift cultural and systemic responses to harm. We are combatting a powerful, dominant narrative of fear birthed out of the cognitive revolution of racial capitalism. Creative practices are inherent to mapping solutions, sharing information, and inspiring radical change. Art should remind us to dream beyond what is deemed to be moral or just by the dominant culture. My practice not only demands, but seduces us to dismantle the micro and macro systems of oppression that we have been complicit in creating.

Centered around abolitionist pedagogy, my studio practice is committed to ending cycles of harm and re-imagining justice through participatory creative projects. Abolition, like growing a garden, requires daily attention and care. The natural world deeply informs the tenants of abolition as much as the studio. From the gardens I have learned profound lessons in creativity, patience, interdependence, elegance, and collaboration. Plants teach us to be better people. Quantifiably, the current criminal punishment system has failed humans and the planet. By applying an abolitionist lens, lifestyle, and pedagogy to our disciplines we can begin to define justice, beauty, wonder, and safety on behalf of a more sustainable world for all.

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