The Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC), the Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts, and the California Lawyers for the Arts invited TCJC to participate in their Texas Art for Justice Forum on July 14 at the HMAAC. The forum was part of a series of events designed to discuss and expand the role that art programs and the arts community can play in addressing mass incarceration, especially in other high incarceration states including Alabama, California, Georgia, Michigan, and New York.
“As reformers we are often focused on research, data, and strategy, but we also know that sometimes that just isn’t enough to change the hearts and minds of people who make the decisions,” said Leah Pinney, Executive Director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. “Art can make that happen – it is an essential tool that transforms us and helps us heal both individually and as communities.”
As part of the forum, the public participated in a series of breakout sessions on juvenile justice, incarcerated women, restorative justice, program development, and bail reform. Each interactive panel discussion was led by legislators, artists, art organizations, and criminal justice reform advocates. In addition to examining the healing nature of art programs for incarcerated individuals, panelists discussed the need for members of the arts community to use their voices to advocate for justice reform.
“This is an important national discussion and I am thrilled that HMAAC was selected as the venue to bring together all of these talented voices and experiences to express our Texas perspective,” said John Guess, Jr., the Museum’s CEO, in a press release.
Special guests included musician SaulPaul and a keynote from Kathyrn Griffin-Grinan, the Human Trafficking Director for Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 1 and a 2017 Rothko Chapel Oscar Romero Award Recipient. Additional special attendees included Texas State Representatives Garnet Coleman and James White; John Abodeely, CEO of Houston Arts Alliance; Gary Gibbs, Executive Director for the Texas Commission on the Arts; and Sandra Guerra Thompson, Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law Center.
To see photos from the event, click here!