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Installation view of Hank Willis Thomas and Baz Dreisinger’s Writing on the Wall, 2015. Photo: Art for Justice Fund.

Agnes Gund’s Art for Justice Fund Awards Nearly $10 Million in Second Round of Grants

The Art for Justice Fund, which was launched by philanthropist and collector Agnes Gund last year, announced today that it is awarding almost $10 million to thirty-eight recipients in its second round of grants. Working to advance criminal justice reform in the United States, Gund auctioned off a prized work by Roy Lichtenstein in January 2017 and used $100 million of the proceeds to jump-start the initiative.

“With this round of grants in particular, the Art for Justice Fund is emphasizing support to women and children,” said Gund. “We know that children whose parents get trapped in the criminal justice system are more likely to be incarcerated later themselves. We need to break this vicious cycle that is devastating the lives of individuals, families, and entire communities.”

Ranging from $25,000 to $2 million, the grants will support organizations working to end cash-bail practices that discriminate against people from low-income communities, provide resources to groups advocating to close youth prisons, expand higher education programs for people who are incarcerated, create leadership training programs for children whose parents are behind bars, and educate the public on the need for criminal-justice reforms.

Among those receiving support are the Imagining Justice grantees, who are creating work that “elevates ideas and stories about the injustice and inequity of mass incarceration.” They include Hank Willis Thomas, Baz Dreisinger, and MASS Design Group for their “Writing on the Wall” project—a collaborative installation made up of diagrams, essays, letters, notes, poems, and stories from incarcerated people around the world—and Russell Craig for his work “Dark Reflections,” a series of portraits of people most impacted by issues of the criminal-justice system.

The fund also named ten writers who will be granted Bearing Witness Fellowships, which will provide each recipient with $50,000 to complete a variety of projects that address the human cost of mass incarceration. The fellows include Clint Smith, who is known for delivering the popular TED Talks “The Danger of Silence” and “How to Raise a Black Son in America”; Francisco Cantú, a former border patrol agent; and Mahogany L. Browne, the artistic director of Urban Word NYC and program director of Black Lives Matter Pratt.

“From advocates to artists, storytellers to policy experts, each of our grantees is helping to dismantle an unjust system and culture that preys on vulnerable communities,” Gund said. Established in partnership with the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the fund, which is intended to be a five-year initiative, awarded $22 million to various organizations and individuals in its inaugural grant cycle.

The full list of grant recipients is as follows:

Keeping People Out of Jail and Prison:

Borealis Philanthropy
Dignity & Power Now
NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund
Pretrial Justice Institute
Youth First Initiative
Youth First State Advocacy Fund

Shortening Sentences:

Forward Justice
New Virginia Majority Education Fund
Ohio Transformation Fund
Stand Up for Ohio

Promoting Reentry into Society:

A New Way of Life
Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
Vera Institute for Justice
Voice of the Experienced (VOTE)
We Got Us Now

Changing the Criminal Justice Narrative with Art:

Art for Justice/Soros Justice Fellowship
Dream Corps
Friends of the Highline

Imagining Justice Arts Grants:

Russell Craig
Maria Gaspar
Titus Kaphar and Dwayne Betts
Jesse Krimes
Shaun Leonardo/Recess
Liza Jessie Peterson
Laurie Jo Reynolds
Cameron Rowland
Xaviera Simmons
Hank Willis Thomas, Baz Dreisinger, MASS Design Group

Bearing Witness Fellowships:

Mahogany L. Browne
Francisco Cantú
Mitchell S. Jackso
Michelle Jones
Valeria Luiselli
C.T. Mexica
Kaneza Schaal and Chris Myers
Clint Smith
Heather Ann Thompson
Natasha Trethewey

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