There is a unique exhibit at Brattleboro’s Brooks Memorial Library for the months of June and July. Finding Hope Within showcases writing, drawing, collage, and crochet from women incarcerated in the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, Vermont’s only women’s prison. The show includes some poetry that has been set and illustrated in letterpress by A Revolutionary Press in South Burlington, one of the exhibit’s curators. The library is also hosting some events related to incarceration to complement the art exhibit.

Finding Hope Within will be traveling Vermont through 2025. It is hoped that the work on display can be expanded to include residents of Vermont’s men’s prisons. The curators are interested in connecting with possible partner organizations that can help make that happen.

The Exhibit Statement

Finding Hope Within features art that has emerged through the carceral system in Vermont. The work featured in this exhibition includes drawings, mixed media, poetry and narrative writing by incarcerated artists at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, Vermont.

In her recent book Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, Nicole Fleetwood writes, “Prison art is part of the long history of captive people envisioning freedom—creating art, imagining worlds, and finding ways to resist and survive.” This exhibition posits art making as a transformative, healing, and cathartic practice and highlights the intensely human instinct to create as a way to transform one’s relationship to community, to the environment, and to the self. A spark of hope for the future emerges through the art of creation.

Viewing this art, abstract conceptualizations about prisons become tangible. Finding Hope Within challenges common narratives about incarcerated individuals and the practices of our carceral system at large and invites viewers to consider art as something that can transcend physical and psychological barriers.

Co-curators of the exhibition are Heather Newcomb of Vermont Works for Women, Ashley Messier of Vermont Women’s Justice and Freedom Initiative, and A Revolutionary Press, in collaboration with the artists and poets at the Chittenden Regional Correction Facility.. The curators of this exhibit are very grateful to the artists and poets and to the Vermont Department of Corrections for permitting this artwork to be publicly exhibited.

Scheduled Events:

Monday, June 3, 7-8:30 Teach In: No New Prisons in Vermont: Join FreeHer organizers for a community teach-in to explore histories of incarceration in Vermont – with a focus on CRCF, the women’s prison in South Burlington. We will discuss how this history informs our resistance to the state’s plan for a new women’s prison and ways you can get involved to build power to and create safer communities.

Monday, June 10, 7-8:30 District of Second Chances, a documentary produced by Families for Justice Reform takes viewers on an emotional journey through the lives of Anthony “Pete” Petty, Gene Downing, and Colie “Shaka” Levar Long: three men from Washington, DC, who were sentenced to life in prison during the 1990s but are now presented with a chance for freedom and a fresh start. The film brings to light the real-life impact of “second chance” legislation through the eyes of those it directly affects. (Trailer available here)

Monday, June 24, 7-8:30 The Grief of Incarceration: Incarcerated individuals experience a wide range of losses that can lead to complex grief. The culture of incarceration does not often support the expression and processing of this grief. Working with, and continuing to manage, grief is an important part of healing and successful reintegration into the community.

Join Mel Dawson, Reentry Coordinator at Greater Falls Community Justice Center and Sacred Grief Facilitator, for an evening of intimate stories shared of the grief experienced by Incarcerated men housed at Southern State correctional facility in Springfield VT. Engage with Mel and fellow community members in an open dialogue about these experiences to learn more about the specific needs of locally incarcerated men and how you can support them through a variety of volunteer opportunities.

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Vermont Just Justice is an all-volunteer organization. Help us continue to support Vermont’s incarcerated people and change our state’s criminal legal system.