Fall 2021

Two primary issues of our contemporary era are mass incarceration and mass displacement. The U.S. currently incarcerates 2.2 million people, a 500 percent increase from a half-century ago, at an annual cost of nearly $100 billion. The number of immigrants in detention in the U.S. has quintupled over the past 40 years, and the number of immigrant detention centers has grown to 200 because of new laws requiring mandatory detention of unauthorized immigrants.

As our legal system has expanded definitions of criminalityfrom the Vagrancy Act of 1866 to the criminalization of unauthorized borderour carceral system has exploded. Incarceration logics and the burgeoning industry of incarceration now reaches across the world as a tool of control and management of populations that the state defines as risky, undesirable, or criminal, in the form of prisons, refugee camps, migrant camps, detention centers, off-shore holding facilities for migrants, re-education centers, and more.

But the use of captivity as a tool of control and punishment is being called into question by a public growing increasingly uncomfortable with the proliferation of prisons and the decades-long national turn to criminalization and punishment of ever larger sectors of society. Why do we choose to believe that the freedom of some is dependent on the captivity of others? What are the alternatives to caging for building a society that offers safety and security to everyone? How can art help inspire the radical political imagination?

During Fall 2021 Freedom & Captivity will feature:

  • an online exhibition called Art on Abolition juried from a national open call;

  • virtual and in-person lectures, performances, workshops, panel discussions, and other programming organized across the state by dozens of collaborating partner organizations;

  • art workshops in Maine’s prisons;

  • a Freedom & Captivity podcast featuring people at the forefront of abolitionist organizing in Maine, available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, the Freedom & Captivity website, and the Portland Media Center website starting in September;

  • courses taught at Maine’s colleges and universities aligned with the theme;

  • parallel and pop-up exhibitions at different venues in Maine, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, the UNE Art Gallery, Colby College Museum of Art, First Amendment Museum, SPACE gallery, Ticonic Gallery, and others;

  • the creation of photographic and video work on the theme that will be showcased on the Freedom & Captivity website;

  • background essays and timelines about Maine’s criminal justice system created for the Freedom & Captivity website.


Contact: Catherine Besteman, clbestem@colby.edu


Image at top: ARRT!, banner for Freedom & Captivity: Art on Abolition.