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SMU’s Pollock Gallery and Dallas Nonprofit Miles of Freedom Present The Arts of Oppression, Exhibit and Auction of Works by Currently and Formerly Incarcerated People, September 11 – October 30, 2021

Miles of Freedom named 2021-22 Pollock Gallery Office Space Resident; will present programming throughout the year at the intersection of art and human rights

DALLAS (SMU) --- The Pollock Gallery of SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, in collaboration with Dallas-based nonprofit Miles of Freedom, hosts The Arts of Oppression, an exhibit and auction of more than 180 works by people currently or formerly in prison, from September 11 through October 30, 2021. Proceeds will benefit the featured artists and Miles of Freedom. A public opening reception will be held Saturday, September 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This year marks the sixth annual Arts of Oppression exhibit by Miles of Freedom, whose mission is to equip, empower and employ individuals returning home from prison and provide support and assistance for families and communities impacted by incarceration.

“Since the beginning of time, art has served as a medium to connect cultures, communities and causes – Arts of Oppression is our vehicle,” said Richard Miles, founder, president and CEO of Miles of Freedom. “Historically, The Arts of Oppression has been a one-day auction event. This year, the exhibition will span two months and allow visitors to understand the exhibit’s origins and the key stakeholders who have participated.”

The exhibit will feature pieces from the collection of the Darkwood Gallery, a San Angelo gallery devoted to showcasing creative works by current and former inmates, as well as historical references to the issues of mass incarceration, human rights and the criminal justice system. Co-curators of the exhibit are Sofia Bastidas, Pollock Gallery director, and Aidan Ellis, SMU Curatorial Minds Lab student fellow.

The works will be available for sale through an online auction that begins September 11 and closes October 30. All bidding must be done online. The auction will go live on September 11 at this link: https://www.32auctions.com/theartsofoppression.

Miles of Freedom is presenting the show at the Pollock Gallery as part of its yearlong Office Space Residency at the gallery, a one-year incubator program offered by the Pollock to an artist or organization working in the art field on multidisciplinary, community collaborations. During the residency, from June 15, 2021 through June 15, 2022, Miles of Freedom will work alongside student fellow Aidan Ellis to create multidisciplinary programming connecting art and human rights. Programming will include:

  • Poetry by teens from the Collin County Juvenile Detention Center, a program led by clemency reform advocate Jason Hernandez.Hernandez was sentenced to life without parole for a nonviolent drug offense in 1998 at the age of 21, received clemency from President Obama in 2013, and has received a Latino Justice Fellowship and Soros Justice Fellowship in the pursuit of clemency reform while working with youth in the criminal justice system and in Dallas schools.
  • A series of mindfulness and yoga practices by Seneca KMIR Alma, who founded the KMIR (Keep Me in Remembrance) Experience after his release from prison; the program of spiritual growth and human development is regularly presented to alternative schools, prison reentry programs and other organizations.
  • A presentation about “Hundreds of Thousands,” a 24-hour public demonstration staged in August 2020 by award-winning theatre artist and activist Stevie Walker-Webb, in which he confined himself to a 6ʹx9ʹ space on the grounds of the McLennan County (Highway 6) jail in Waco, Texas. The demonstration, which was livestreamed through New York’s Public Theater, aimed to make visual the inhumane treatment of incarcerated, mentally ill people and marked the 122nd day that his brother, Steven Waday Walker-Webb, had spent in solitary confinement after a bipolar-schizophrenic episode.
  • A series of conversations with local artists, grassroots organizers and criminal justice advocates, including artist/curator/writer Vicki Meek; Alma Rios, founder of Darkwood Gallery and mother of an incarcerated son; Seneca KMIR Alma; and former Arts of Oppression participants.

The schedule for the programming is currently being planned and will be posted at https://pollockgallery.art/mof.

In addition, Miles of Freedom will host open office hours at the Pollock throughout the year, on Thursdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They will also host working sessions for 2 Road Home Tour, a tour that provides participants with an understanding of all the places, steps and requirements needed by inmates as they prepare for reentry into society.

The 2021 Arts of Oppression exhibit is an official project of Healing Pieces: Offerings of Art, Expression and Nature, a collaborative multi-year arts and engagement initiative led by SMU Meadows School of the Arts’ Ignite/Arts Dallas program with myriad partner organizations and individuals. Healing Pieces is specifically interested in how architecture, green space, urban planning and community development can lead to transformation of the city. It seeks to illustrate how Dallas and its communities can enter conversations that encourage understanding and stimulate meaningful change across race, culture, geography, criminal and environmental justice reform and urbanism. For more information, visit www.healingpieces.art.


About Miles of Freedom:

Miles of Freedom, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was founded in 2012 by Richard Miles, a man falsely incarcerated for 15 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Released by the state of Texas in 2009 and fully exonerated in 2012, he established Miles of Freedom to “create a productive bridge of transition for individuals, families and communities impacted by incarceration and to facilitate growth and acceptance.” Miles of Freedom incorporates pre/post-release services, community events and youth mentorship. For more information, visit https://milesoffreedom.org.

About Aidan Ellis:

Aidan Ellis (she/her) is a third-year SMU student from Austin, Texas, pursuing majors in film & media arts and English with minors in human rights and art history. She applies her diverse academic interests to examine how the ideation, production, curation and reception of cultural texts respond and relate to human rights topics and issues. She is particularly fascinated by texts as mechanisms for empathy, and she hopes to produce and curate texts in ways that utilize this mechanism to achieve meaningful, cross-cultural understanding. Ellis serves as an inaugural fellow in the Curatorial Minds Lab, a cohort of current and former SMU students interested in deepening their understanding of the historical development of curatorial practices and the study of contemporary art display theory.

About the Pollock Gallery:

The Pollock Gallery is a vital component of the Dallas cultural landscape. The gallery provides a space for critical engagement with art and pedagogy, bringing together historical scholarship, contemporary artistic practice, and experimental methodology. The gallery is committed to producing exhibitions, events and scholarship in collaboration with the intellectual discourse generated by the faculty, students and general public to serve as an integral extension of SMU Meadows academic programs. The Pollock Gallery is located on the east campus of SMU in Suite 101 of Expressway Tower, 6116 North Central Expressway, Dallas 75206. During the exhibition, the gallery will be open 2-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or by appointment. Parking and admission are free. For more information, call 214-768-4439 or visit https://pollockgallery.art.

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