Why Arts and Minds?

We’ve heard the stories. A single mom turns to drugs as she struggles to make ends meet. An abusive boyfriend comes along and she makes very bad choices. Caught and arrested, this mother faces a jail sentence, her children are consigned to a failing foster care system, and it gets worse when she’s paroled. Who will give her a job or rent her a dwelling? Would you rent to or employ an ex-felon?

A felony conviction in your background check means you fail.

We’ve seen the stories – probably have met the woman in our community who wants to earn a better life for herself and her children. Usually, these women fall back into bad habits, repeat the cycle, spend another stint behind bars, and face even more impediments to jobs, housing, and independence.

The broken criminal justice system fails our weakest community members. It yields an ever-growing prison population. It adds layer upon layer to laws and privacy invasions, and fosters legal abuses – while purporting to make our streets safer.

And we’ve seen our streets both improve and get worse. It all depends on the zipcode.

Policy experts have great solutions to build a better criminal justice system, but most people never see them. Why? Because the policy prescriptions often address the problem from multiple angles. They become confusing.

This summer, in Portland Oregon, Spark Freedom aims to build a bridge between good policy ideas and people in our communities who care about the criminal justice problem. We will paint the story of a woman who has been failed by the system; we will spark conversation about how to meaningfully address crime in our communities. We will connect those most interested in providing ex-cons a hand up with those concerned about the poor outcomes in Oregon’s criminal justice system. We hope to see new alliances forged, new actions taken, and better solutions built into the system.

Why use art to reform criminal justice? Because art speaks to the heart. It crosses barriers between income levels, race, experience, politics, and professions. And the dynamic of a group of people creating a shared vision – in this case a mural – builds bridges.

With this project, we will not just paint a mural. We will paint connections among the people who gather, no matter their politics, profession, or income level. Because the lives of those failed by our broken criminal justice system… those struggling to redeem themselves… are on the line.

Join us in summer 2017!

For more information about this project, or to become involved, please email Nicole Williams, Nicole@SparkFreedom.org or Ginger Martinsen, Ginger@sparkfreedom.org.

To financially support Arts and Minds, please visit our Kickstarter campaign.