Dear JAC Community,
As we approach the end of this incredibly challenging year, I am filled with gratitude for everyone who has supported our work and all of the wonderful members of the Justice Arts Coalition’s community. On behalf of our team of volunteers and interns, thank you for partnering with us to unite teaching artists, advocates, and currently and formerly incarcerated artists to reimagine justice through the arts.
2020 has been a painful, trying year for so many of us, and that has been especially true for the incarcerated artists in our community. In prisons across the country, lockdowns are unending; families are unable to visit their loved ones; programming is cancelled indefinitely; and the fear, grief, and loss of the pandemic is particularly acute in a carceral system characterized by overcrowding and lack of access to medical care.
As you can see in the highlights listed below, our volunteers and interns have stretched their capacity to meet the needs of our community, processing and responding to thousands of letters from artists inside, managing all aspects of our online communications, running our programs and events, and fostering connection between artists and advocates across the country.
We hear every day – from teaching artists, incarcerated artists, their loved ones – just how vital our work is on an individual, interpersonal, and systemic level. We have never believed more deeply in the transformative power of the arts and human connection to change our world.
But JAC is at a crossroads, and this letter is both a celebration and a heart-centered request for your help.
We are needed more now than ever, yet we can not keep going, let alone expand in the ways we are being called to, without significant financial support from our community. JAC can no longer run on volunteer power alone.
I wish I could confidently say that one grant, or one donor could swoop in and change things for JAC. But that just is not true. Our sustainability depends on the ongoing investment of the community we have worked so hard to nurture and nourish.
In these times of increased isolation and uncertainty, our mission has taken on a new urgency. We have been striving to meet the needs of our community by providing opportunities for connection, healing, artistic expression, and for building and sustaining community. Since the pandemic began in March of this year, JAC has:
- Hosted bi-montly online ArtLinks events, where volunteers write personalized letters responding to incarcerated JAC artists’ work
- Launched CorrespondARTS, a brand new, distance-learning arts program for women at the Maryland Correctional Institution
- Strengthened our JAC community and coalition through weekly gatherings of teaching artists from across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico
- Hosted more than 40 online workshops facilitated by teaching artists in our network
- Paired nearly 100 incarcerated artists with artists outside through our pARTner project
- Facilitated exhibition and publishing opportunities for dozens of incarcerated artists through partner organizations like MoMA PS1 and PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing Program
For 2021, we are planning a national conference exploring the intersections of arts and justice, deepening our partnerships with artists, arts organizations, and advocates, and continuing to innovate in how we center system-impacted artists.
You can make the biggest impact by committing to a monthly donation to JAC. It will serve as a reminder to us that our community is behind us, and it will help us to show institutional funders that there is a groundswell of commitment — that our work matters, because the people in our communities matter. We would love to have 100 new monthly donors to kick off 2021. Please consider joining us. Of course, single donations for 2020 are welcome as well. Contribute in whatever way and however much feels meaningful to you. No matter what, it will make a difference and be deeply appreciated.
With your support we can finally pay staff to manage our programs, and secure a physical space to anchor our work and safely store and display the hundreds of pieces of artwork so courageously entrusted to us by artists inside.
Thank you for reading this far, for giving to JAC in so many ways in 2020, and for helping to make our work sustainable in the new year. May it be one of greater ease, connectedness, and abundance for us all.
With gratitude and love,
Wendy Jason, Founding Director
Please make your monthly or single donation by clicking HERE.
Your donation through our fiscal sponsor, The William James Association, is 100% tax deductible.