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Artspace awarded $82,000 grant from the Surdna Foundation for the Jerome Project

New Haven, Connecticut—An $82,000 grant from the Surdna Foundation to Artspace will support The Jerome Project, created by artist Titus Kaphar, a project that highlights the urgent need for reform of our criminal justice system. Kaphar will engage with currently and previously incarcerated individuals–all named Jerome–to create a series of paintings, sculpture, an experimental documentary and community convenings.


Artspace was one of only 15 artists or culture bearers whose projects were awarded grant funding from more than 1000 applications received in response to a national request for proposals. Projects receiving grants were selected for the quality of the artistic practice and for the dedication to exploring critical themes that arise from or impact a community; and finally, for the project’s capacity to enable social change. The grants will enable artists and culture-bearers to work with their organizational partners to support community processes, create and disseminate new work.


The two-year awards support artists and culture bearers working in places ranging from Haines, Alaska and Brooklyn, New York to LaConner, Washington and Long Beach, California. These projects are addressing contemporary issues including incarceration, cultural heritage, and immigration, among many others. In addition to the diverse geographic, ethnic, cultural, and gender communities addressed by the artists’ projects, awardees’ work spans a broad range of artistic activity, aesthetics, genres, and artistic disciplines.


The Jerome Project is an investigation of the criminal justice system through the lens of a common, traditionally African-American name. Conceived by artist Titus Kaphar, and leaning on research by scholars Michelle Alexander, Vesla Weaver and William Julius Wilson, the project will engage currently or previously incarcerated individuals who share this name across the US. Letters, filmed interviews and footage will serve as the foundation for an exhibition at Artspace July-September 2015, and for public programs (theater/spoken word performance, symposium, discussions and convenings) in New Haven and other host communities across the US over 12 months. While illustrating the similarities and distinctions of the specific Jerome narratives, and revealing their humanity, the artworks gives visual form to the notion that the sentencing policies over the past 40 years have transformed the nation’s prison system into a modern equivalent of Jim Crow.


Additionally, two theater artists (Aaron Jafferis, Dexter Singleton), founders of the Collective Consciousness Theater, will organize/spoken word workshops to be performed at Artspace during the exhibition. A September symposium, to be held at Yale University Art Gallery, will bring together artists and resources from national organizations focused on criminal justice reform.


Surdna Foundation’s President Phil Henderson said, “In an era of accelerated and often dramatic social and demographic change, artists and culture bearers like Artspace play critical roles within our communities helping us understand and challenge pressing issues. Their visions, communicated through, film, performance, text, spoken word and other forms can help communities achieve a sense of connectedness and common purpose.”


“The Jerome Project will serve as a catalyst for diverse groups from under-resourced agencies, neighborhoods and from the law to share stories, testimonies, and form new partnerships, network, and co-create a vision for a better criminal justice system,” said Artspace Executive Director, Helen Kauder. “It also represents a unique opportunity to expand and diversify the audience for arts and culture, and to connect Connecticut individuals involved in Criminal Justice systems with scholars, artists, and urban teens and their families.”


About The Surdna Foundation

The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. For over five generations, the Foundation has been governed largely by descendants of John Andrus and has developed a tradition of innovative service for those in need of help or opportunity. The Foundation’s support arts and cultural projects through its Thriving Cultures grantmaking program which is based on a belief that communities with robust arts and culture are more cohesive and prosperous, and benefit from the diversity of their residents. Surdna believes that artists and cultural organizations can help us explore shared values and spark innovation, imagination and advancement for our communities.


About Artspace

For nearly thirty years, Artspace has been at the forefront of New Haven’s contemporary art scene, championing the ideas and artistic concerns of local artists and creating space for exhibitions on some of the most urgent issues of our time. Touchstone programs like our Summer Apprenticeship for New Haven Public School students, our City-Wide Open Studios festival, and our Flatfile, which brings needed attention to exceptional works on paper, together provide artists with unparalleled access to audiences, space, resources, and to one another.  In 2016/2017, Artspace will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a series of exhibitions and programs to mark “Three Decades of Change.”


Artspace’s 15th annual Summer Apprenticeship Program is also made possible thanks to the support of the JANA Foundation, the Seymour L. Lustman Fund, a planning grant from the Connecticut Humanities Fund, and Friends of Artspace.

Dowload full press release here: PR Surdna Foundation