Coalition of Universities Nets $250,000 NEH Grant

UCR is one of 20 universities participating in humanities project "States of Incarceration"

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UCR is part of a coalition of 20 universities that received a $250,000 grant from the NEH to support discussion around their current project, “States of Incarceration.” The traveling exhibit that is part of the project will open at UCR ARTSblock’s California Museum of Photography on May 7.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced a $250,000 grant to The New School’s Humanities Action Lab (HAL), a coalition of 20 universities that includes the University of California, Riverside, collaborating to produce student- and community-curated public projects on pressing social issues.

The funds will support public dialogues around HAL’s current project, “States of Incarceration,” a traveling exhibit, web platform, and curricula focusing on mass incarceration. The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world and at any other moment in its history, with deep racial disparities in the system that enforce inequalities in American society.

HAL invited students and people directly affected by incarceration in 20 cities to explore their own communities’ experience with incarceration: how it evolved historically and what issues remain today. Each team created one local “chapter” of what will be compiled into a collective, multi-faceted portrait of incarceration, past and present, framed by the key questions these histories raise.

“Unfortunately, California has led the race to incarcerate in the United States,” said Catherine Gudis, director of UC Riverside’s Public History Program. “Since the 1980s, we’ve built 22 prisons but just one University of California campus. Our state spends nearly seven times more to keep one person in prison than we spend per student in our public schools.

“With this exhibition and the public programming around it, UCR and HAL join national efforts to examine imprisonment as an automatic or first response to other social problems of poverty. We do so by holding up an historical lens that offers clarity on today’s issues.”

The exhibition will open at The New School’s Sheila Johnson Galleries in April 2016 and, over the next three years, travel to each of the 20 communities that created it.The New School is a university in New York City.

It will open at UCR ARTSblock’s California Museum of Photography on May 7 and continue through Aug. 6. Programming in association with the exhibition will include public dialogue and panel discussions, performance, and film screenings. A reception at ARTSblock will be held on May 21 from 6 to 9 p.m. Student curators and docents will be present to showcase their work and lead visitors through the exhibition. Admission is free and open to the public.

UCR’s participation in the Humanities Action Lab is led by Catherine Gudis and Molly McGarry, who previously led UCR to collaborate with over a dozen other universities across the country to create the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, an internationally traveling exhibit, web platform and series of dialogues reaching over 500,000 people in 18 cities that served as the pilot for HAL. This was presented at UCR’s ARTSblock in 2013 as part of “Geographies of Detention: From Guantánamo to the Golden Gulag.

The exhibition, designed by the firm Matter Practice, will coincide with a national public forum at The New School April 14-16. The forum will provide a space for students, stakeholders, scholars, and policy experts who worked on the project to come together and engage in a national dialogue on incarceration. The forum will feature tactile interactives, digital polling, and face-to-face dialogues. As the exhibit travels, local partners will host dialogues in their communities, in exchange with partners in other cities working on related issues.

A web platform, designed by the studio Picture Projects, will expand on the travelling exhibition and provide a medium to connect communities across the country.

“This grant from National Endowment for the Humanities, one of the nation’s largest funders of humanities programs, will enable us to explore how Americans have grappled with incarceration in the past and how it has profoundly shaped generations of people in each of our communities,” said Liz Sevcenko, director of HAL. “We hope by coming together to exchange diverse local histories and collective memories, we can foster new national dialogue on how to move forward.”

“The pressing challenges facing our nation call for dialogue and understanding,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “There is ample evidence that communities across the nation are eager to come together to discuss the critical issues that face them as citizens and neighbors. Using the unique insights of the humanities, the Humanities Action Lab project will bring new audiences and organizations together in ways that address compelling public concerns.”

In addition to UCR, universities partnering in “States of Incarceration” are Arizona State University, Brown University, DePaul University, Duke University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Northeastern University, Parsons Paris, Rutgers University-Newark, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Skidmore College, The New School, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Miami, University of Minnesota, University of New Orleans, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of Texas at Austin, and Vanderbilt University.

The Humanities in the Public Square grant program is part of Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, a new initiative to foster innovative ways to make scholarship relevant to contemporary issues.

UCR ARTSblock is located at 3824 & 3834 Main St., Riverside, CA 92501, and includes three venues: the California Museum of Photography (CMP), the Culver Center of the Arts, and the Sweeney Art Gallery. ARTSblock is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon–5pm. Admission is $3 and includes entry to all three venues. Galleries are open late and admission is free during First Thursday ArtWalks, which take place on the first Thursday of every month, 6–9pm. Film screenings are held on Fridays and Saturdays in the Culver Screening Room. Visit for more information.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Catherine Gudis
Tel: (951) 827-5823

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