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She Shall Overcome

Newcomb Art Museum exhibition goes beyond the bars, winning the LEH’s Museum Exhibition of the Year award for Per(Sister)

She Shall Overcome

Per(Sister) at the Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane.

For more than three years the staff of the Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane worked with scholars, humanists, artists, activists, consultants, non-profit organizations, and individuals directly impacted by Louisiana’s high incarceration ratesthe nineteenth highest in the world for women—to produce Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana. The exhibition, on view from January 19 to July 6, 2019, put human names, faces, and stories to the dehumanizing numbers behind Louisiana’s female incarceration statistics.  

Exhibition creators Syrita Steib-Martin and Dolfinette Martin, along with museum director Mónica Ramírez-Montagut and museum curator Laura Blereau, worked with thirty formerly incarcerated women (persisters”), capturing their stories in listening stations and pairing them with thirty-two predominantly Louisiana artists, who responded to the women’s experiences through film, mixed media, needlework, photography, sculpture, poetry, song, and dance. Per(Sister) promoted artistic expression as a catalyst for social change, backing up personal narratives and artists’ explorations with statistics and a critical look at the history of incarceration and criminal justice reform at state and national levels. This layered approach, which extended into the thirty free public programs presented in conjunction with the exhibition, made for a powerful and reflective visitor experience. Fortunately for future audiences, the exhibition will travel beyond its initial showing at Tulane, opening at the Ford Foundation in New York on March 2. 

The Life Quilt, 2018.  

Compiled by Selina Anderson of the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women (LCIW) Drama Club and sewn together by Louise Mouton Johnson, The Life Quilt features the names of 107 women serving life sentences in Louisiana in 2017. The names were hand-beaded by members of the Golden Feather Hunters, Creole Osceola, Washitaw Nation, Wild Magnolias, Cheyenne Hunters, and Young Maasai Hunters. New Orleans artist Brandan ‘BMikeOdums created the center portrait featuring the late Mary Turner, who died while serving a life sentence.