How to watch

The video below is a recording of a live conversation held on Zoom on February 18, 2021.

About this conversation

In a moment of mass unemployment, in a culture of mass incarceration, and in a society built upon racial capitalism, the demand for complete abolition of prisons and policing reverberates throughout our country. In this panel, policy makers, human rights leaders, and artists, including sujatha baliga, Nicole Fleetwood, Maria Gaspar, and Deanna Van Buren with moderator Prerana Reddy, will introduce their work and describe their visions for a future organized around community well-being and care, free from systems of punishment and control.

In conjunction with the exhibition Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water, this series of online conversations brings together artists, activists, and thinkers to discuss creative, alternative solutions to policy issues like the wealth divide, the injustice of the justice system, and the current crisis of representation in cultural and political life that threatens our democracy.

Rope/Fire/Water offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the past and think critically about our current national climate. In doing so, we will be able to reimagine what the future can be and build new, collective paths forward to a radically different society with equity at its heart.


This event will include CART services and ASL interpretation.


A photo of sujatha baliga standing against a red brick wall. baliga wears a bright pink shirt and has gray and black hair that falls behind her shoulders.
Courtesy sujatha baliga.
sujatha baliga
A photo of Nicole Fleetwood, who has short hair parted on the right side of her head and wears glasses with emerald green frames. She poses outside with a rocky outcrop and green foliage in the background.
Photo: Bayeté Ross Smith.
Nicole Fleetwood
A photo of Maria Gaspar wearing a dark blue dress and two turquoise bracelets. She has short bangs with her hair pulled back.
Photo: Zeltzin Vazquez.
Maria Gaspar
A photo of Deanna Van Buren smiling and seated on a bright yellow sofa. Behind her, pendant lamps hang in the background against a bright red-orange wall.
Courtesy Designing Justice + Designing Spaces.
Deanna Van Buren
A photo of Prerana Reddy standing against the blurry background of trees and a tall bridge. Reddy wears a geometric-print shirt, red earrings, and a long, red beaded necklace.
Photo: Manuel Molina Martagon.
Prerana Reddy
sujatha baliga
sujatha baliga’s work is characterized by an equal dedication to crime survivors and people who have caused harm. A former victim advocate and public defender, baliga is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and conferences about her decades of restorative justice work. She also speaks publicly and inside prisons about her own experiences as a survivor of child sexual abuse and her path to forgiveness. Her personal and research interests include the forgiveness of seemingly unforgivable acts, survivor-led movements, restorative justice’s potential impact on racial disparities in our justice system, and Buddhist notions of conflict transformation. She was named a 2019 MacArthur Fellow.
Nicole Fleetwood
Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood is a writer, curator, and professor of American studies and art history at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She is the author of Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (2020) and the curator of the exhibition of the same name, currently on view at MoMA PS1 through April 4, 2021. Her other books are On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination (2015) and Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness (2011). She is also co-editor of Aperture magazine’s “Prison Nation” issue, focusing on photography’s role in documenting mass incarceration, and co-curator of Aperture’s touring exhibition of the same name. Fleetwood has co-curated exhibitions and programs on art and mass incarceration at the Andrew Freedman Home, Aperture Foundation, Cleveland Public Library, Eastern State Penitentiary, MoMA PS1, Mural Arts Philadelphia, the Zimmerli Art Museum, and the Urban Justice Center. Her work has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, NYPL’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, ACLS, Whiting Foundation, Denniston Hill Residency, Schomburg Center for Scholars-in-Residence, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the NEH.
Maria Gaspar
Maria Gaspar is an interdisciplinary artist whose work addresses issues of spatial justice in order to amplify, mobilize, or divert structures of power through individual and collective gestures. Gaspar’s projects have been supported by the Art for Justice Fund, the Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship, and the Creative Capital Award among others. Gaspar has lectured and exhibited extensively at venues including the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; the African American Museum, Philadelphia; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. She is an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, holds an MFA in studio arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
Deanna Van Buren
Deanna Van Buren is the executive director, design director, and co-founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, and one of just 500 Black female architects in the US. She is a nationally known advocate for magnifying the role of design for ending mass incarceration, and her work includes the creation of multiuse hubs for restorative justice and workforce development across the country. Deanna received her BS in architecture from the University of Virginia and her MArch from Columbia University, and she is an alumna of the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.
Prerana Reddy
Prerana Reddy is a cultural producer based in NYC. Most recently she was the director of programs at A Blade of Grass (ABOG), a nonprofit organization that supports socially engaged artists with direct financial support, vibrant public programs, and field research. She also oversaw the production of a free online Municipal-Artist Partnership Guide in collaboration with Animating Democracy/Americans for the Arts and co-edited A Blade of Grass’s biannual magazine on arts and social engagement. Prior to joining ABOG, she was the director of public programs and community engagement at the Queens Museum of Art for 14 years, where she organized screenings, performances, discussions, and community-based collaborative programs and exhibits both on- and offsite. She also developed an intensive arts and social justice program for new immigrant youth as well as a community development initiative for Corona, Queens, residents.
Weeksville Heritage Center

Weeksville Heritage Center is an historic site and cultural center in Central Brooklyn that uses education, arts, and a social justice lens to preserve, document, and inspire engagement with the history of Weeksville, one of the largest free Black communities in pre-Civil War America, and the Historic Hunterfly Road Houses.

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