A unique program in New York City created by the Center for Court Innovation offers people who have committed a low-level crime like trespassing or criminal mischief the opportunity to completely divert their case out of the traditional court system. Instead, participants in the Project Reset initiative meet in group settings with teaching artists to share a dialogue about works of art over a three-hour course. Upon successful completion of the program, the case is declined by the local district attorney’s office, the arrest record is sealed, and the individual never sets foot in a court room.
The program was piloted about six years ago at Gavin Brown’s gallery in Manhattan; artists Derek Fordjour and Shaun Leonardo were involved in developing and leading the curriculum. Currently, Project Reset operates in partnership with the New Museum in Manhattan and the Brooklyn Museum. At the latter, the focus is on two paintings: Titus Kaphar’s “Shifting the Gaze” and “Judgement” by Bob Thompson.
In a conversation with Colossal, Criminal Justice Director Adam Mansky explains that they have seen incredible success with the program. Initially limited to first-time offenders ages sixteen to seventeen, Project Reset has incrementally expanded over the years. It now serves a wider age range, as well as people who have had previous encounters with the court system.
“What we’ve observed is that some of the older participants get even more out of it,” Mansky tells Colossal. “There is a conceptual and performance aspect to participating in the course,” he explains, prompting reflection and active engagement on issues like systems of power and social perceptions.
“Conceptually, we do things that allow people to use arts to reflect on their behavior and the injustices of the system, that it can be a constructive experience for people,” says Mansky. Project Reset is effective because it matches the systemization of traditional court processes, while also centering the individual’s circumstances and potential for improvement and change for the future, rather than punishment for the past.
Since 2015, more than 1,750 people have participated in the program, and avoided a criminal record. The program has a 98% completion rate, with 96% of participants recommending it to others and a significant decrease in recidivism one year later. Project Reset also offers expediency: the 3-hour program helps cases, on average, be resolved 186 days sooner than traditional prosecution.
In addition to Project Reset, the Center for Court Innovation engages in a wide array of participatory and creative programming. The organization offers youth photography workshops, as well “a tremendous amount of place-making work”, Mansky explains. Much of their programming incorporates design and urban planning, as well as creative technology.
Find out more about the Center for Court Innovation on their website. The organization is also hiring for dozens of roles if you’re interested in getting involved professionally. You can also keep up with the non-profit and learn more about their impact on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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Over 100 Stitchers are Collaborating Across the U.S. to Complete an Unfinished Embroidered Quilt by Late Crafter Rita Smith
Chicago-based fiber artist and activist Shannon Downey has a particular affinity for unfinished projects. She seeks them out at estate sales, helping women who’ve passed complete their work. Although this has long been an area of interest for Downey, one recent discovery has catapulted to the front page of news sites around the world.
On a visit this September to a Chicagoland estate sale sale, Downey happened upon a framed embroidery (pictured above) that maps out the United States and illustrates all fifty state flowers. A casual conversation with the cashier at the sale led to Downey finding a large-scale project related to the framed work. An unfinished queen-sized quilt was meant to incorporate another U.S. map along with hexagons featuring each state’s bird and flower along with the year they entered the union.
Rita Smith of Mount Prospect, Illinois, had begun the project a few decades ago, according to her son, whom Downey subsequently connected with. Smith, who was a nurse, passed away recently at the age of 99. “I have an annoying habit of having to purchase and finish unfinished projects if I think that the person has passed on … but usually I’m just buying a half-done pillow that needs half an hour’s worth of stitching and then it’s done,” Downey told Block Club Chicago. “But this one was massive and it just felt really significant for some reason. And so I bought it.”
Downey has a substantial following thanks to her work as a community organizer and resource for people looking for an alternative to digital distractions. The self-described ‘craftivist’ tells Colossal that after running a digital marketing company for a decade, she was burned out and needed a break from technology.
I started stitching to find some digital/analog balance. I was hooked. I am an activist and I quickly fused the two. At first, it was about creating space for myself to think substantively and reflect on various issues and topics. As I started to share my work and thoughts, I found a community of folks on Instagram who were engaged and engaging. I have found ways to move those communities offline and into real life communities through my stitch-ups. Those communities are what inspire me to keep going, level up, find new ways of building and connecting, having hard conversations and tackling challenging topics.
Once Downey shared her unexpected find on Twitter, inquiries from potential collaborators began flooding in. Now she is coordinating between dozens of stitchers across the country who are volunteering their time to complete Rita’s masterpiece. Downey describes the effort as a strongly feminist project. “It is an opportunity for folks to consider how we define and assign value and meaning to craft,” she tells Colossal. “So many of the stories that people are sharing with me on twitter after reading about #RitasQuilt are about memories and connections that they have to the women in their lives who are/were makers and the significance that their art has come to have for them.”
The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky will be displaying the completed quilt, and Downey hopes that it will be able to come with her for a planned 2020 craftivist tour around the U.S. Keep up with Downey on Twitter and Instagram to see how you can get involved in craftivism in your community, and follow along with the #RitasQuilt hashtag.
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The World’s First Bee Influencer Uses Social Media to Raise Funds for Lifesaving Pollinator Research
We can only imagine the job description: Science Foundation seeks expert visual effects designer to create robust social media presence for imaginary insect influencer. B., billed as the world’s first bee influencer, reports from Instagram-friendly locations like Montemartre in Paris and beachfront lounge chairs. Channelling trends among young female influencers, B. flaunts her figure, does yoga in pretty places, and hosts Story A.M.A’s, answering queries about her favorite musicians (Beethoven, the Bee Gees, Beeyonce). B’s captions are a blend of educational and quippy—a “photo” of her rowing is captioned “I have only one flaw… (LOL) I don’t know how to swim!”
Following in the footsteps of other scientific non-profits like the California Academy of Sciences and the Field Museum in Chicago, Fondation de France seeks to meet people where they’re at—which is, by and large, on social media. Humor, au courant language, and memes have become powerful tools to convey important messages about our past, present, and future world.
But whereas other institutions use strong voices on social channels to indirectly raise funds through increased museum attendance and perhaps larger sponsorships for exhibitions, the foundation is channeling income directly from their in-house influencer. Companies and organizations who feel that their brand identity aligns with B. can pay the rising-star insect to promote their products in the same way that a #vanlife influencer might pose with a brand of potato chips or shampoo. The fees that a company pays for exposure with B. go directly to Fondation de France’s BEE FUND, which the 50 year-old foundation created “to fund the actions considered as the most fundamental and urgent in the protection of all species of bees.”
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A recent documentary from PBS includes a fascinating clip of an octopus changing colors while sleeping. The marine biologist involved in Octopus: Making Contact thinks that the sea creature was dreaming about hunting, which sparked the color shift to a camouflaged shade. Dr. David Scheel describes his theory in the documentary:
So here she’s asleep, she sees a crab and her color starts to change a little bit. Then she turns all dark. Octopuses will do that when they leave the bottom. This is a camouflage, like she’s just subdued a crab and now she’s going to sit there and eat it and she doesn’t want anyone to notice her. …This really is fascinating. But yeah, if she’s dreaming that’s the dream.
If you’re wondering how it was possible to document this occurrence, the octopus in question is being kept in captivity and closely studied by Dr. Scheel, an Alaska-based professor. Stay tuned for the full documentary, which premieres October 2, 2019, on PBS. (via the sleeping octopus’s enthusiastic cousin, Laughing Squid)
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This summer, while traveling in Vienna, Dutch photographer Dick van Duijn captured an indelible moment of natural connection between a ground squirrel and a yellow flower. The photographer was in Vienna specifically to document ground squirrels. In an interview with PetaPixel van Duijn explained, “On the first day we observed them and their behavior. On the second day, we photographed them the whole day. In the evening just before sunset, when the light became soft and nice, one of the many ground squirrels walked towards the yellow flower and began to hold it and sniff it.” You can purchase prints of this and other flower-enamored squirrel’s in van Duijn’s online store, and see more of his work and travels on Instagram. (via PetaPixel)
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Although the Earth rotates below the sky, aerial time-lapse videos often have the perspective of a celestial scene rushing above the ground. In this brief video by Aryeh Nirenberg, the Milky Way becomes completely stationary, highlighting specifically the Earth’s rotation. Nirenberg recorded the time-lapse with a Sony a7SII with the Canon 24-70mm f2.8 lens while using an equatorial tracking mount over a period of three hours. You can see more of his starscapes on Instagram and Youtube. (via Kottke)
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Neighboring Communities Playfully Connect Atop Neon Pink Teetertotters Slotted Through the U.S.-Mexico Border Wall
Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello have long worked in activating structures in projects that blur the line between art and architecture. The Oakland-based duo, who self-describe as pursuing “applied architectural research”, also have a longstanding interest in the United States-Mexico border wall. In 2009 Rael wrote Borderwall as Architecture, which features a conceptual drawing of a teetertotter. The concept relocates the classic playground equipment to the border wall as its fulcrum. Ten years later, this cover art came to life in the neighboring communities of Sunland Park, New Mexico and Colonia Anapra, Mexico.
Constructed by Taller Herrería in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, neon pink teetertotters slot through the wall’s narrow gaps, allowing citizens on both sides to playfully engage with their cross-border counterparts. The fundamental design of the teetertotter, while delightful and chuckle-inducing, also functions by each user literally feeling the weight of humanity of the person on the other side. In an Instagram post announcing the project Rael shared, “children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”
Rael and San Fratello worked in collaboration with Omar Rios to execute “Teetertotter Walls.” Rael is a Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and San Fratello is an Assistant Professor at San José State University. Dive into an archive of nearly twenty years of the duo’s socially engaged work on their website, and follow along with their latest projects on Instagram.
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