“I would love to see it like a parade and everybody is real colorful, you know, bright and smiles. We’re clapping and hugging, and then we see them coming towards the gate, but they're not walking. They're running. They're so happy they're running out. Screaming, “We finally made it!” - Paulette Carrington, collaborating artist. The interactive installation is part of the national exhibit STAYING POWER by Monument Lab at the Village of Arts and Humanities. On the Day They Come Home imagines a future where all women serving life are free. The monument was co-designed by former life sentenced women, and family members of women serving life in PA. The exhibit is up and open to the public till July 10, 2021. When we consider the idea of “Staying Power,” we first ask, who is missing? Who has been displaced? Who is fighting to help them return? In North Philadelphia, the extreme of displacement is being permanently removed through life imprisonment. There are 200 women and trans people serving life in Pennsylvania. 54 of them are from Philadelphia. When They Come Home...is both a monument, and a memorial. As a monument, the installation celebrates the resiliency and power of former long term and life sentenced women, and those with impacted family, through larger than life portraits, poetry carved out of charred wood, and interactive audio installations that bring their photos to life. Around each woman’s portrait is a wreath of flowers that each symbolize a core tenet of the abolitionist world they advocate for: healing, resistance, resiliency, counter-narratives, and love. As a memorial, the installation makes those sentenced to die in prison undeniably visible (through the hundreds of animated lights suspended above the sculpture), while commemorating the lives and activism of life-sentenced women who died before getting their freedom.
The installation highlights the struggles of the present, while imagining the day when all women serving life will be set free. As a structure, the installation inverts the image of a prison chain-gang by creating a circular and unified formation, that hints at a crown to celebrate their power, and a stage to celebrate the future these women are fighting for.
This project is being led by artists Mark Strandquist and Courtney Bowles, in collaboration with Tamika Bell, Paulette Carrington, Starr Granger, Ivy Johnson, and Yvonne Newkirk.
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