Art for a New Future: National Convening 2021

Art for a New Future: Justice Arts Coalition’s 2021 National Convening 

(June 24-26, 2021 online, 11:30am – 4:30pm EST daily)

The JAC community came together for interactive and embodied art experiences, skill-sharing, and conversation. Participants learned, created, and connected, harnessing the liberatory power of the arts to reimagine justice.

Plenary 1: In Conversation with Nicole Fleetwood, Ndume Olatushani, Rachel Nelson, moderated by Sabra Williams.

Plenary 2: “Abolition is About Making Things” moderated by Mariame Kaba. Featuring Rachel Wallis, Monica Trinidad, Naima Thomas, Bianca Diaz, and Neta Bomani

Plenary 3:Poverty Scholarship: Poor People-Led Theory, Art, Words, and Tears Across Mama Earth” with Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia and POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE.

Publicly available content from the convening:

If you want to participate in a community art project created by currently incarcerated artist Carla Joan Simmons, head here. Listen to featured interviews with JAC Network artists on Soundcloud here!

We’ll be posting rotating recordings of convening sessions to this page over the coming months. Enjoy Songs and BeatsDescription below.

Songs and Beats

Songs & Beats is an original performance piece created by system-impacted youth who use their lived experience as a jumping off place to explore epic themes such as justice, incarceration, trauma, redemption, and freedom. Art – specifically music – is a vehicle for transformation. This performance highlighted the “Art for All” theme and removed the barriers that marginalized young people often face. The lack of art and music in public schools, the closure of community centers, and the mass incarceration of young people – particularly those of color – all have led to a profound need for “Art for All” in our city and country at large. Jail Guitar Doors exists to provide music education and career pathways to young people by fostering their creative voice, original compositions, and performance styles. Songs & Beats is the result of the efforts of young creative minds supported by professional teaching artists in state-of-the-art recording studios. This performance session connected to the theme by giving the artists the opportunity to express their emotions, tell their stories, and share their talent. The goals of this convening are directly tied to the youth who create through JGD’s programs, exploring transformational justice, racial equity, the end to mass incarceration, community restoration, and help for substance and drug dependent individuals. Songs & Beats brings together powerfully raw lyrics and hip-hop beats to tell the stories of kids who have nowhere to go but up.


  • Jason Heath, Program Coordinator, Jail Guitar Door
  • Luke Reynolds, Studio Manager, Jail Guitar Doors
  • Chris “Go Getta Chris” Hargraves, Rapper & Spoken Word Artist, Jail Guitar Doors
  • Joshua “Blaccson” Blackson, Musician and Artist, Jail Guitar Doors

View the full schedule of sessions. 

All workshops, discussions, and performances aligned with one or more of the central themes and core values of Art for a New Future:

  • Art as Abolition: the arts as a pathway for communities to imagine and build worlds beyond policing and incarceration; art as a tool for advocacy, nurturing community.
  • Art for All: increasing access to creative opportunities within carceral institutions; pedagogy; funding; trauma-informed arts education.
  • Solidarity and Community: building and nourishing connections and resilient relationships across our network.
  • Participatory learning: learning through and within community, through embodiment, through creative practice; artistic practice as a tool for healing, growth, connection, and fueling our radical imaginations.

Missed JAC’s Art for a New Future: 2021 National Convening?

Thank you to everyone who attended Art For A New Future! If you happened to miss it but are interested in watching the recordings of the sessions, the JAC team has put together an opportunity for donors to gain access to the entire collection of over 30 recordings of workshop, performance, and panel discussions by donating $50 or more by August 30th.

Art For A New Future Spotify Playlist Available Now: Thank you to everyone who submitted songs through our Whova request to create this Spotify playlist. A representation of the community felt during the Art For A New Future convening, this playlist was created for and by you! If you did not get a chance to submit a song, you can do so by sending us the name of the song and artist here. Happy listening!

Read our blog reflecting on the convening here.

It was essential to our values and mission that every effort was made for the convening to be as accessible and inclusive as possible. We are so grateful to HEARD DCPro Bono ASL, and Gloria Delgadillo, L. Miller, and Pao Lebron for helping us move toward full accessibility by providing ASL and Spanish language interpretation!

Thank you to the Convening Planning Team: Wendy Jason, Robin McNulty, Katie Adams, Jessie Glover, Kate Stank, Kanyinsola Anifowoshe, Page Dukes, Katherine Frost, Melissa Wang, Alden Eckman, Hunter Isenstein, Richael Faithful, Elida Ledesma, and Jojo Donovan. Thank you to all the speakers, facilitators, and panelists for their incredible sessions. And thank you, of course, to all of the attendees and supporters who make this work possible!