MARCH / APRIL 2019 Focus: Stories of Incarceration

40 Years of the Community Partners in Action Prison Arts Program
Friday, March 15, 5:30-7:30pm (exhibition runs through April 28)
(ArtWalk, 3rd Floor, Hartford Public Library, 500 Main Street, Hartford)

40 Years of the CPA Prison Arts Program is comprised of drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, documents and artifacts from Community Partners in Action’s Permanent Collection that vividly illustrate the work and history of this important project. For the past four decades, the Prison Arts Program has advocated for art and artists in prison, organized in-prison workshops and an annual show open to anyone incarcerated in Connecticut, maintained a travelling permanent collection, published and distributed a journal of art and writing, and collaborated with other organizations, agencies and individuals. The program works to positively and constructively change the prison environment while encouraging empathy, self-discipline, work ethic, self-esteem, technical and communication skill development, thoughtfulness, critical thinking and calm. Special thanks to Bank of America for its support of this exhibition.

States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue on Local Histories
Thursday, March 28, 5:30-7:30pm (exhibition runs March 11-April 18)
(Atrium, Ground Floor, Hartford Public Library, 500 Main Street)

In partnership with the University of Connecticut, the Hartford Public Library will be hosting a national exhibition produced by the Humanities Action Lab at The New School, called “States of Incarceration.” The interactive exhibition explores the national dialogue on the history and experience of the prison system through a compilation of local stories. The Connecticut component focuses on research conducted by UConn students on the history of the colony of Connecticut’s first prison, Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine, which was originally a mine starting in 1705 and turned into a prison in 1773. In 1790, Old Newgate became the nation’s first state prison. Inmates were required to mine and confined underground the rest of the time, subjecting them to life-threatening conditions.

Encounters: States of Incarceration
Saturday, April 6, 10am-1pm
(Hartford History Center, 3rd Floor, Hartford Public Library, 500 Main St.)

“I have here unjustly suffered so much, and seen, and heard so much, that I am not as I was; my nature has become changed and hardened against my race—I feel myself let loose from all the ties of society—and that I have lost almost all the feelings of humanity.” This quote from an unnamed prisoner of Old Newgate Prison, the nation’s first state prison, speaks to the dehumanizing and life-altering impact of imprisonment. Join us as we discuss both the historical and contemporary issue of incarceration at the local and national level to get a better understanding of how prisons function in American society. To register, please RSVP to

Please review the following readings before the program:
1. Letter from a formerly incarcerated individual, in relation to the documentary Life on Parole 
2. A History of Newgate of Connecticut (Selected Excerpts) by Richard Phelps
3. What Is Prison Abolition? By John Washington

ArtWalk Book Club: JDPP’s “Finding Stillness”
Tuesday, April 9, 6-7:30pm
(Hartford History Center, 3rd Floor, Hartford Public Library, 500 Main St.)

Join us for a performance and talk back around short pieces created by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women at York Prison in Niantic, CT, from Judy Dworin Performance Project’s latest production, “Finding Stillness.” Learn more about the Judy Dworin Performance Project here:

“Conviction” Staged Play Reading & Talk Back
Saturday, April 27, 2-5pm
(Center for Contemporary Culture, Hartford Public Library, 500 Main St.)

Join us for a staged reading and talk back of the play “Conviction,” based on the real life story of Hartford resident James Tillman, written by Alan Kramer, directed by Kimberly West-Herzog, and produced by Groundswell Ensemble Theatre. The play takes place during an appeal hearing where a wrongfully accused man interacts with his young, not-yet-incarcerated self, his imprisoned self, and his present day self, getting flashbacks of his upbringing and schooling experience that gave him the foundation of being seen as a target and a threat, leading to his wrongful accusation and incarceration for almost 2 decades. Tillman ends up being the first person in the state of Connecticut to be exonerated based on DNA testing.


Shared Dining, Women of York
Friday, March 8, 6-8pm (exhibition runs through April 8)
(Charter Oak Cultural Center, 21 Charter Oak Ave. Hartford)

A group of ten women incarcerated at York Correctional Institution in Connecticut, calling themselves “Women of York,” produced this work of art inspired by Judy Chicago’s The Dinner PartyShared Dining responds to the constraints of producing work within a correctional institution by re-purposing pedestrian materials, playing on historical craft-based associations of art made by women. The table is accompanied by audio recordings of each artist describing her place setting and its meaning. An act of determined self-representation, “Shared Dining” uses individual narratives to raise critical questions about politics, gender, and incarceration. The exhibition is on loan from the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation through the sponsorship of the Charter Oak Cultural Center and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut.

Lisette Oblitas is one of the 10 artists from Women of York – Shared Dining. Since her release from York CI, Lisette successfully overcame a US Immigration Court order of deportation.  She was accepted into the Justice-in-Education program at Columbia University. She has become an Administrative Assistant in the Heyman Center for the Humanities.  And currently she continues taking courses at Columbia, exhibiting her art, and public speaking.  She plans to major in Psychology and Art at Columbia.
Learn more about her here: