Members of Art Beyond Cornell at the Spring Gallery event.

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Art Beyond Cornell exhibition features works by incarcerated youth

Art Beyond Cornell (ABC) recently held their Spring Gallery event, an exhibition showcasing art made by local incarcerated youth and ABC members. The student-run organization within the Einhorn Center for Community Engagement provides access to art and social connection to young men at MacCormick Secure Center in Brooktondale, New York, and aims to cultivate awareness of the American carceral system and opportunities for social justice.

On May 1, visitors to the Ruth Woolsey Findley History of Art Gallery could view a range of works, from paintings of the seasons to a group collage of a face, postcards showing a place the artist wants to go as well as doodles and games such as tic-tac-toe played by the participants.

“Art can be a powerful tool of self-expression and self-discovery, which is especially important both for youth and in the context of a dehumanizing environment,” said Steven Kim ’27, public relations chair for ABC. “The idea that the artwork that these guys make will be enjoyed by others is exciting to them.”

More than a dozen youth and young adults between the ages of 16 and 21 typically take the ABC volunteers up on the offer of weekly art projects and hangout time.

During the gallery opening, members of ABC’s executive board gave short remarks, recounting their experiences in the organization and reading poetry written by MacCormick residents in the past. Activities such as card games and art gave guests a taste of what visits to the facility are like.

“We hope that the viewers are able to get some sense of the guys’ personalities and appreciate the creativity that they possess and the fun they had while making the art,” Kim said. “We want to make sure that the guys at MacCormick retained agency and ownership of their art, despite them not being able to be involved in how the work was displayed, so we were very careful to try to avoid imposing different messages and meanings that they may not have had in mind. We also hope that the viewers come away from the gallery thinking about the impact that the current juvenile justice system has on youth and start being more aware and engaged with social justice.”

The Spring Gallery exhibit was on display May 1–9. ABC art from last year can also be seen in a semi-permanent gallery in the Rose House Dining Room on West Campus.

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