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Visualizing Abolition: Art, Abolition, and the University

Ashley Hunt, MJ Hart, and Joshua Solis
Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
online event
Presented by: 
Institute of the Arts and Sciences

Visualizing Abolition presents artist Ashley Hunt in conversation with MJ Hart and Joshua Solis of the Underground Scholars Initiative. The Underground Scholars Initiative supports formerly incarcerated students at UC Santa Cruz and system-impacted students in the transition experience and beyond. For "Art, Abolition, and the University," Hunt and the Underground Scholars will talk about their collaboration of a broadsheet for the Barring Freedom exhibition. They will also discuss the roles of the university in struggles for abolition and what they call the prison to school pipeline.

This event is part of the Institute of the Arts and Science's Visualizing Abolition series.

FREE and open to the public
Register here
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About the Speakers
Underground Scholars is a statewide initiative that supports formerly incarcerated and system-impacted students in the transition experience and beyond, and the building of the prison to school pipeline. With a focus on recruitment, retention, advocacy and policy, the aim is to bridge the popular academic theoretical discourse of mass incarceration with one that is grounded in the lived experiences of UCSC students and students from surrounding communities. 

Ashley Hunt is an artist, writer and teacher based in Los Angeles. In works like Corrections Documentary Project (2001–10), Prison Maps (2002), A World Map in Which We See… (2004–07), Notes on the Emptying of a City (2006–10), and Degrees of Visibility (2010–present), Hunt works in dialogue with movement building and grassroots organizations, including Critical Resistance, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Citizens for Quality Education, Southerners on New Ground, and Friends and Family of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children. His works have shown in venues ranging from community centers and prisons to museums, including Pitzer Art Galleries, the Museum of Modern Art, Project Row Houses, the Hammer Museum, the Tate Modern, Documenta 12, and Sinopale Biennial in Turkey. His writings include the book titled Notes on the Emptying of a City, and have appeared in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Hunt lives in Los Angeles where he teaches in the Photography and Media Program at CalArts.

Missy “MJ” Hart is an artist and abolitionist born and bred in North Fair Oaks, Redwood City, California, and is a gang member turned activist, after growing up criminalized, institutionalized, and surviving the horrors of the criminal injustice system. In rebuilding their life, MJ learned to transmute the negativity of their past into seeds of positivity for the future through weaponizing their mind, developing a critical consciousness, and putting in the work to manifest transformation healing. MJ is a workshop facilitator, columnist and creator of “Rozes Among Thorns” with The Beat Within, a San Francisco based organization providing incarcerated youth and adults with a ​weekly writing, art, and conversation workshop that gives them a safe space to share their ideas and experiences while promoting literacy, expression, critical thinking skills, and supportive relationships with the community. MJ is helping to establish the Underground Scholars Initiative at UCSC, while completing their B.A. in Psychology, with a minor in History of Consciousness. MJ strives to put their knowledge into action, organizing with various grassroots movements in their hometown, surrounding communities, and beyond—advocating for real systemic changes, radically watering the seeds of the revolution, while pushing that hard line to collectively heal the hood.

Joshua Solis is a first-generation formerly incarcerated alumnus from UCSC. After spending over 11 years incarcerated, he is now a leader and advocate for formerly incarcerated and system-impacted students in California. After earning his G.E.D. at Salinas Adult School, he has since gone on to earn an Associates degree at Hartnell Community College, a B.A. in Sociology at UCSC, and is currently pursuing his Masters degree. Joshua is now the program coordinator for the Underground Scholars Initiative at UCSC. Through comprehensive collaboration, program coordination, and program outreach, his efforts serve to continue the prison to school pipeline.

About the Series
Visualizing Abolition is a series of online events organized by Dr. Rachel Nelson, director of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences, and Gina Dent, associate professor of feminist studies. The events feature artists, activists, and scholars united by their commitment to the vital struggle for prison abolition. Originally, Visualizing Abolition was being planned as an in-person symposium. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the panels, artist talks, film screenings, and other events will instead take place online. The events accompany Barring Freedom, an exhibition of contemporary art on view at San José Museum of Art October 30, 2020–April 25, 2021. To accompany the exhibition, Solitary Garden, a public art project about mass incarceration and solitary confinement is on view at UC Santa Cruz. 

Visualizing Abolition is organized by UC Santa Cruz Institute of the Arts and Sciences in collaboration with San José Museum of Art and Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery. The series has been generously funded by the Nion McEvoy Family Trust, Ford Foundation, Future Justice Fund, Wanda Kownacki, Peter Coha, James L. Gunderson, Rowland and Pat Rebele, Porter College, UCSC Foundation, and annual donors to the Institute of the Arts and Sciences.

Partners include: Howard University School of Law, McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, Jessica Silverman Gallery, Indexical, The Humanities Institute, University Library, University Relations, Institute for Social Transformation, Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery, Porter College, the Center for Cultural Studies, the Center for Creative Ecologies, and Media and Society, Kresge College.

image credit: Ashley Hunt, Degrees of Visibility, 2013-ongoing.