WHYY: Jarred Cruz - October 1, 2020
The first artist-in-residence of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office has unveiled a new exhibit that hopes to spur dialogue on criminal justice reform.
Throughout a 10-month residency, James Hough completed a project called “Points of Connection,” a series of portraits on display across the city that he hopes will connect the dots between culture and politics.
“I think we need more art and culture embedded within our city government to produce change, legal change, policy change, and to move the progression of art, culture and social justice forward,” Hough said.
The Pittsburgh-born Hough served 27 years in prison for a murder he committed in 1992 when he was 17.
After being sentenced to a life term, Hough practiced painting while incarcerated and contributed to over 50 murals outside the walls of Graterford State Correctional Institution through the Philadelphia Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice Program.
In 2012, following a U.S Supreme Court ruling that declared life sentences for juvenile offenders unconstitutional, Hough was resentenced.
He reentered society in 2019 and was selected by DA Larry Krasner for his work “to humanize the people who populate the criminal legal system.”
“Art has the ability to unite like almost nothing else,” Krasner said on Wednesday.
A list of locations where Hough’s paintings can be found include the District Attorney’s Office, City Hall, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Eastern State Penitentiary.
The residency program is funded by the Philadelphia nonprofit Art for Justice.
“It’s critical at this time in our city and in our country because things are so divided and afraid. So, I’m hoping that people who don’t think about criminal justice reform will be impacted,” said Jane Golden, executive director of the Mural Arts of Philadelphia.
Another new art project for the District Attorney’s Office will be announced this Friday during a “Points of Connections” virtual panel discussion.
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