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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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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Take to the Streets with a Free Font Inspired by Climate Activist Greta Thunberg’s Hand-Painted Protest Signs
A new font, free to all for download and use, is inspired by climate collapse activist Greta Thunberg. “Greta Grotesk” was created by Uno, a new company designing a solution to the disposable beverage cup pandemic. Drawing from the hand-painted protest signs that Thunberg has created for her worldwide efforts to create action on climate collapse, the font is in all capital letters. Above is an excerpt from Thunberg’s powerful speech she recently delivered at the U.N. You can download Greta Grotesk here. (via Kottke)
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Stark Photographs by Benjamin Dimmitt Show the Ecological Damage of Saltwater Encroachment in Florida’s Wetlands
An Unflinching Look, a documentary photo series by Benjamin Dimmitt, is set in Florida and focuses its gaze on rising sea levels. Dimmitt has been photographing in the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge north of Tampa since 2004, after an initial visit more than 30 years ago.
“The dense palm hammocks and hardwood forests were festooned with ferns and orchids and the fresh water creeks were a clear azure,” Dimmitt tells Colossal. But, around 2011, saltwater began leaching into the creeks, due to rising sea levels and the state’s environmental decision-makers. Florida’s water commissioners allowed more fresh water to be drawn into large-scale inland developments and agricultural interests, leaving less for wetlands in the aquifers that feed these essential ecosystems.
“What had been verdant, semi-tropical forest is now mostly an open plain of grasses relieved by palms and dying hardwood trees,” Dimmitt explains. “In 2014, I began to photograph in the salt-damaged sawgrass savannas and spring creeks there as a way of reckoning with the ecosystem loss and of understanding what has become of my native Florida. I have narrowed my focus to a small, remote area that I know and love. My intention in bearing witness to this loss has been to portray the ruined landscape with respect, nuance and beauty.”
In order to create each photograph, Dimmitt canoes into the wetlands, stepping on to land to set up his tripod when possible, or shooting from his canoe if the water is too deep or land too soft. The selenium-toned gelatin silver prints are created with a medium format camera. Dimmitt grew up in a creative household, and his mother was an abstract painter. She gave the photographer his own camera at age 16, and her aesthetic continues to inform Dimmitt’s own practice to this day.
Because Dimmitt has been working in this region for so long, he is able to show the dramatic changes in the landscape over time, as salt-intolerant vegetation has been wiped out by the encroaching ocean water, as documented in the diptychs shown here. The artist tells Colossal that he has a very direct approach to photography, shooting from his eye and his heart. He sought to channel “a hammer in a velvet glove,” creating compelling images that would draw viewers into the larger issues at stake. As part of his artistic practice, Dimmitt also researched saltwater intrusion and spoke with scientists, activists, state water management officials, and locals to gain a full picture of the situation. For the photographer, the experience of documenting the changes in Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge “has been painful and cathartic for me, evoking grief, anger and feelings of loss and mortality.”
An Unflinching Look is part of a current exhibition, “This is Climate Change,” now on view at Southeast Museum of Photography through October 26, 2019. Explore more of the photographer’s portfolio on his website and Instagram. You can also learn more about the buyouts that state governments in regions impacted by climate change are offering people to leave their homes in an incisive article on Bloomberg, and explore “ghost forests” all along the Eastern seaboard in the New York Times.
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A Swedish Art Collective Handcrafts 17,000 Unique Sculptures Signifying Refugee Youth at Risk of Deportation
Seventeen thousand unique sculptures are displayed in a new installation by Swedish artist collective Skaparkollektivet Forma. The group sought to draw attention to the individuality of 17,000 Afghan refugee youth whom the Swedish government plans to deport. The unaccompanied minors came to Sweden in 2015, totaling 23,500 in that year, and were fully integrated into their adoptive communities. However, the government seems to have shifted gears and has reversed its opinions on a majority of the young people.
Working with 1,500 volunteers, Skaparkollektivet Forma created petite sculptural works of art to represent each individual impacted by the planned governmental uprooting. The works are glued to 34 frames in groups of 500, which allows the installation to be easily transported and installed in different configurations.
Since the collective started working on this project, attention has been drawn to the issue, and some of the youth have been allowed to stay, but apparently the majority of the planned deportations are still set to happen. “In the debate on migration, living human beings tend to be transformed into anonymous volumes,” said Skaparkollektivet Forma told dezeen. “But we wanted to understand what this five-figure number actually represented. The installation makes the number 17,000 visible and above all shows that behind every number there is a person,” they explained. “Behind each figure there is a personality, a story, a work of art.”
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REWILD: A Short Film by Splash and Burn and ESCIF Chronicles Rainforest Restoration Efforts in Sumatra
To draw attention to the ecological devastation wrought by palm oil farming in Southeast Asia, the Splash and Burn project (previously) creates and documents large and small-scale art activations. The initiative’s most recent endeavor, titled REWILD and executed with Spanish artist ESCIF, involved carving a rewind symbol into a palm oil plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia, and creating a short film documenting the effort. ESCIF explains, “the idea of going back, of rewinding, is an invitation to reconnect with ourselves; to recover awareness and respect for the earth, which is the ecosystem of which we are a part.”
The land art intervention took place on an acquired plantation within a new forest restoration site made possible by the Sumatran Orangutan Society. After clearing the palms, diverse vegetation has been re-planted. In a release about the project, Splash and Burn explains that the restoration site is located on the borders of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Sumatra’s forests—and the wildlife populations within—have shrunk by 40% in the past two decades, replaced by palm oil, paper pulp, and rubber plantations. Though not commonly known in the U.S. as a cooking oil, palm oil is the most widely consumed oil on the planet, found in everything from chocolate and instant noodles to lipstick and laundry detergent.
You can watch the trailer of REWILD below. It features an abstract soundscape by Indonesian composer Nursalim Yadi Anugerah. If you are interested in contributing, head to moretrees.info, and follow Splash and Burn (comprised of Ernest Zacharevic and Charlotte Pyatt) on Instagram.
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Put Words into Action with ‘Gerry’, a New Font Created From the Silhouettes of Gerrymandered Electoral Districts
Apologies to anyone who shares the name, but two designers in Chicago are taking on electoral gerrymandering in a new font called Gerry. The font, created by Ben Doessel and James Lee, is composed of 26 districts whose absurd boundaries resemble alphabet letters much more than they resemble logical, cohesive population groupings. Alabama’s pronged 1st District bears a striking resemblance to the letter K, while New York’s 8th District looks like an M with its tall legs connected by a curved middle.
“Gerry” is available for download on a dedicated website, UglyGerry.com, which also includes a Twitter integration allowing visitors to thank their Representatives for their contributions to the font. If you’re interested in learning more about Gerrymandering, we recommend this John Oliver segment. (via Hyperallergic)
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Editor's Picks: Photography
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