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The Artists Cannot Be Present

The Artists Will Not Be Present an exhibition featuring visual art, poetry by youth in Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. It is free and open to the public. The exhibition opens July 11 at 6 p.m. at the  Chicago Art Department, 1932 S Halsted St Suite 100, Chicago, Illinois 60608.

The exhibition presents the work of students who are currently or formerly incarcerated in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. The Artists Will Not Be Present is the third annual exhibition of Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program student work hosted by Chicago Art Department.

“Our students are intensely marginalized. They are young, they are in jail, they have very few positive outlets through which to be seen or heard,” according to Free Write Director Ryan Keesling.

“Knowing that their work will travel outside of the Detention Center’s brown-brick walls and communicate with all sorts of people is deeply validating. It helps them to know they have a place in the world. It contributes to a sense of hope and purpose.”

[pullquote]Gallery attendees will be offered the opportunity to write notes and record video responses to the artists. These responses will be brought back to the incarcerated students after the show, creating a new dialogue between the artists and the public. Keesling says that audience feedback helps the young artists to know that their work holds value.[/pullout]

The exhibit will include graphic illustrations, publications of poetry and autobiographical fiction, as well as recorded poetry and music. There will also be live performances by Free Write teaching artists and members of the youth mentoring group Circles & Ciphers.

Free Write has provided creative writing workshops, reading tutoring and arts programming for youth in detention for the past 15 years, collaborating with local teaching artists to provide students with tools for self-expression and all forms of literacy. Current collaborators include acclaimed artists and educators Roger Bonair-Agard and Elgin Smith.

FreeWrite Jail Arts
FreeWrite Jail Arts

The Artists Will Not Be Present is curated by Chicago Art Department resident Chelsea Ross along with Free Write staff members.

Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program is generously supported by The Charles E. Marks Charitable Trust, The Chicago Community Trust, The Illinois Humanities Council, The Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation, Burners Without Borders, Big Shoulders Coffee Roasters.

Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy is a program of Chicago Lights.


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