Arts + Justice

Amy Elkins, The Golden State, 2017. Photo by artist. Exhibition at Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion, Orange Coast College. Costa Mesa, CA

Stanford Arts Institute collaborates with campus partners on a series of initiatives investigating urgent matters around justice and the arts.

Now in its fifth year, the Arts + Justice program aims to reimagine the art of social justice. SAI is partnering with the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Theater and Performance Studies department to bring artists and scholars to the campus community as part of an ongoing Research Workshop Series. SAI also administers the Arts + Justice Student Grant program, which funds undergraduate and graduate students as they investigate urgent matters around justice issues and the arts.

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The 2023-24 Arts + Justice Student Grant funded twenty students engaged in creative pursuits around questions of art and justice. This year’s cohort includes both undergraduate and graduate students who work in an array of mediums and forms.

The student cohort also received the support of an expanded workshop program, led by graduate student coordinator Marina Bergenstock (Ph.D. candidate in Theater and Performance Studies). The aim of these meetings is to build community and create a space where the group could share goals, challenges, progress, and successes. In this space, the students worked across media, providing invaluable feedback and creating kinship and relationships that will extend far beyond the length of these projects. Marina invited guest presenters who are artist-scholar activists to speak to the group, allowing the participants to think beyond their individual projects and into the wider networks to which they belong or of which they aspire to be part.

Made possible with the generous support of the Shenson Fund, the Arts + Justice Student Grants program is sponsored by the Stanford Arts Institute (SAI), in cooperation with Institute for Diversity in the Arts (IDA).

Related Resources, Projects & Events

Huntsville Station film still

Huntsville Station (2020)

NYTimes Op-Docs: The 'Surreal' Moment After Release From Prison
Huntsville Station
(2020). Film by Jamie Meltzer and Chris Filippone.

When inmates are released from Huntsville Unit, the oldest state prison in Texas, the first destination for many is the nearby Greyhound bus station. Every weekday, the bus station becomes a site of reflection for men who’ve spent months, or decades, imprisoned. The short documentary above was filmed before the pandemic but captures the precarious period experienced by the estimated 600,000 people released annually from federal and state prisons across the country. With nothing much more than the clothes on their backs, a bus voucher and a $100 release check, these formerly incarcerated men grapple with the excitement and uncertainty that come with freedom.

Jamie Meltzer is a filmmaker and associate professor of the M.F.A. program in documentary film at Stanford. Chris Filippone is a filmmaker and educator based in Oakland.

Open Call for Clemency

Open Call for Clemency

Open Call for Clemency
Presented by The Confined Arts (TCA) and Release Aging People from Prison (RAPP)

The Confined Arts (TCA) and Release Aging People from Prison (RAPP) presents Open Call for Clemency, an online exhibition featuring works by artists who are currently incarcerated. The works reflect on personal responses to the current COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on the urgency and importance of clemency. Due to new COVID-19-related communication restrictions imposed in jails and prisons, many artists are not able to share their work or access materials to create new work at this time. This exhibition persists in spite of these limitations. The goal of this exhibition is to emphasize the humanity of those who are incarcerated, share their works as widely as possible, and ultimately reach the Governors’ offices, to advocate for clemency. 

The Million Book Project

The Million Book Project

The Million Book Project
A new project supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Million Book Project, spearheaded by Reginald Dwayne Betts, marks the first major grant since the announcement of the  Foundation’s new strategic direction – one that grounds all its grantmaking in the arts, culture, humanities, and higher learning in social justice. This vital initiative will distribute a curated 500-book collection to 1,000 medium- and maximum-security prisons in every state across the US over the next three and a half years.

The recorded discussion addressed what it means to extend access to literature across the American prison system, and to affirm the right of those who are incarcerated to engage in the exchange of ideas and stories that invigorate American society.



Stanford Arts Institute