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 on a series of initiatives investigating urgent matters around justice and the arts.

Now in its fourth 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.

Featured News & Events

In 2021-2022, the Arts + Justice Student Grant funded twenty-one students (two collaborative projects, seventeen individual projects) 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, including visual arts, creative writing, film, photography, digital media, music, theater, and fashion. Highlights from this year’s cohort include multi-media installations exploring themes of migration and citizenship, sculptures addressing carceral feminism in South Asian form, and a ‘zine to address issues of the unhoused as experienced by urban youth. Many projects collaborated closely with community partners to embed their work beyond the Stanford ecosphere.

Originally recorded May 27, 2021

A panel discussion on the Environmental Humanities and environmental justice featuring ethnomusicologist Nadia Chana, artist-theorist Elaine Gan, and scholar-activist Pavithra Vasudevan. Centering themes of temporality, corporeality, and race, our panelists come together to discuss the un/making of bodies, corporeal archives, and sounding praxes of environmental justice as they intersect with one another.  In the age of the Anthropocene, such conversations demonstrating the interdisciplinarity and generative potentialities of Environmental Humanities research are urgently necessary. This panel discussion was moderated by Stanford Mellon Fellow in English, Carlos Alonso Nugent.

Sponsored by the Stanford Humanities Center. Cosponsored by the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, the Stanford Arts Institute, and Theater and Performance Studies.

Originally recorded May 13, 2021

How do we imagine pleasure in the aftermath of racial and sexual violence? Join scholars and artists to discuss the intersections of race, consent, and kink in Jeremy O. Harris’s play Slave Play, the most Tony Award-nominated production in American theater history. We’ll speak with the artists who choreographed intimacy for this production and discuss the strengths and limitations of consent for advancing sexual justice.

Sponsored by the Stanford Humanities Center. Cosponsored by the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, the Stanford Arts Institute, and Theater and Performance Studies.

Originally recorded on Friday, March 5

Please join us for a cross-cutting poetry reading and panel discussion featuring Layli Long Soldier, author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection WHEREAS, a response to the failures of the 2009 Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans, and Ann Tweedy, award-winning poet and legal scholar specializing in tribal jurisdiction and tribal civil rights law. Presenting recent and forthcoming poetry and scholarship, Long Soldier and Tweedy will shine a light on the violence sanctioned by American legal language and structures against Native American tribes and peoples, even as their work demonstrates a commitment to reclaiming those forms toward alternative ends. Stanford Jones lecturer and poet Monica Sok will moderate this essential conversation at the intersection of poetry, indigeneity, injustice, and the law. A complimentary copy of either Ann Tweedy’s or Layli Long Soldier’s book will be provided to the first 15 to RSVP.

Originally recorded February 19, 2021

Join us as the acclaimed composer Jonathan Berger (Stanford), powerful visual artist Enrico Riley (Dartmouth), and award-winning artistic director Niegel Smith (The Flea) come together for a roundtable discussion on their artistic roles on The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist, a multimedia song cycle and community meditation and ritual on the death of Eric Garner. This piece, and their reflections on the on-going process of creation and collaboration, draws forth themes of atonement, resistance, witnessing, activism, and togetherness, relying on the sonic, the visual, the theatrical and the textual to convey its message. Co-commissioned in 2019 by Stanford Live and the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, this performance is forthcoming when theaters return with live audiences.

Sponsored by the Stanford Humanities Center. Cosponsored by the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, the Stanford Arts Institute, and Theater and Performance Studies.

Recommended Events/Readings from Other Organizations

Huntsville Station film still

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