Pitzer College to Host “Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States”

Exhibit curated by Rickie Solinger, director, WAKEUP/Arts

CLAREMONT, Calif. (Aug. 17, 2006) – Pitzer College will host “Interrupted Life,” a traveling public art installation that examines the lives of incarcerated mothers and their families as well as the policies and politics of incarceration in the United States, at the Nichols Gallery Aug. 28-Sept. 29.

Curated by historian Rickie Solinger, Director of WAKEUP/Arts in New York, this exhibit links eight installations. Works include the “Real Cost of Prisons” comic book project, the San Francisco Photovoice Project, and an installation by CAPACITY, a youth arts program in Columbus, Ohio. The result is a powerful commentary on imprisonment; the emotional impact incarceration has on families; and stigmas generated by incarceration.

Incarcerated women comprise the fastest growing segment of the prison population. Most of these women are mothers. They not only face the challenges of incarceration, but they also may find their situation complicated by finding interim care for their children. In the process, many incarcerated mothers risk losing their parental rights altogether. When mothers are incarcerated, their children are punished too.

This exhibit examines the harsh realities of incarceration and invites viewers “to become educated, active community members, searching for information and decent solutions to a major, growing problem in U.S. society.”

“When we think of prisoners, we often think of men, yet women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population; they are typically non-violent, yet are housed in prisons built on a male model, where their needs–and the needs of their children to be in contact with them–are generally overlooked,” said Sue Castagnetto, professor in the Intercollegiate Women’s Studies program at the Claremont Colleges. “Politicians in California are currently addressing the failures of the prison system. With the art show and related events, we seek to raise awareness of women’s situation in the growing prison crisis, and the dire consequences for the children of incarcerated mothers, with the goal of motivating a public demand for change.”

Interrupted Life is the third traveling exhibit by WAKEUP/Arts, whose goal is to create exhibits that can function as “pedagogical interventions,” stimulating the creation of learning activities based around the issues raised by the exhibits. A number of educational events have been planned to supplement Interrupted Life, including a gallery talk by Solinger and a daylong symposium featuring academics, advocates, formerly incarcerated women, and individuals whose parents were incarcerated.

Solinger is a historian and a curator. Her books include Pregnancy and Power (2005), Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade (1992, 2000), and Beggars and Choosers (2001). Solinger’s exhibits are associated with the themes of her books: the race and class politics of motherhood, and reproductive politics in the United States, historically and today. These exhibits have traveled to more than 80 campus galleries around the country since 1992.

“It’s an honor to host this exhibition in the Nichols Gallery,” said Katherine Guevarra, Nichols Gallery curator. “I saw the exhibit open at the California Institution for Women in Chino. It proved to be an eye-opening experience, especially since I was sharing it with women who were incarcerated themselves. This exhibit really humanizes the faces of incarceration. I hope this exhibit will encourage people to become proactive citizens, even with the smallest act of writing their local official.”

The Nichols Gallery is located in the Broad Center on the Pitzer College campus.  Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m.

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