May 20, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

New exhibit features art from inside prison cells

3 min read

CINCINNATI — A new exhibit combining art and prison is a display straight from prison cells. 

What You Need To Know

  • The display “Marking Time: Art in the age of mass incarceration” opens at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati
  • Marking Time features 30 artists who were in prison, are still in prison or are advocates for prison reform
  • The artist and the curator of the traveling exhibit wants viewers to walk away with a deeper understanding of those behind bars

For Hamilton native Nicole Fleetwood, the art being displayed is a reminder of what she witnessed growing up.

“I saw many of my relatives and neighbors enter prisons, many of them for years and to not return,” said Fleetwood.

The artists behind the works weren’t creating them in a studio but in a prison cell. 

“Many of these works are exploring ideas of freedom, exploring a sense of belonging,” said Fleetwood. 

That’s why for the last decade she’s put together a traveling art exhibit. She’s the curator for the exhibit called “Marking Time: Art in the age of mass incarceration.”

It’s set to be revealed at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. 

There will be artwork from 30 artists. Many of the artists are still in prison or have already served time. Aimee Wissman is one of them. 

“I had some significant rage that I needed to process,” said Wissman.

She said drug addiction led to her lock up in a maximum-security prison in prison for five years.   

“I was supposed to be released at a certain time, and I was going to get to see my daughter. I served five years of an eight-year sentence, and that didn’t happen,” said Wissman.

That’s when she took whatever she could find to create an outlet through art. She started an art therapy program inside prison. When she got out of prison four years ago, she became a working artist in Columbus and an advocate with a message.

“I hope that people see it and they’re uncomfortable and they feel the anger and they have some kind of emotional connection that opens the door for people to think about people who are incarcerated as human beings,” said Wissman.

It’s the same message through art Nicole Fleetwood said she hopes will spark a change. 

“I also hope they walk away with an even greater sense of urgency about transforming our current prison system,” said Fleetwood. 

The Marking Time exhibit opens at the Freedom Center on April 22.

For more information about the exhibit, click here.

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