Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a Member »

"Solitary Gardens" in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward (photo by Olivia Hunter)

“Solitary Gardens” in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward (photo by Olivia Hunter)

On Friday, September 21, A Blade of Grass (ABOG) and the Lower Eastside Girls Club (LEGC) presents What It Takes to Be Free: Artists Respond to the Criminal Justice System. ABOG is a Brooklyn-based organization that attempts to provide resources for artists that work towards social change and create socially engaged art. What It Takes to Be Free consists of a screening and discussion on the American criminal justice system, featuring ABOG Fellows for Socially Engaged Art. This will no doubt be an important and enriching event for all involved.

The program begins at 6:00 pm with the premiere of two short films. The first is a film by Reentry Think Tank, an art and advocacy group started by ABOG Fellows Mark Strandquist and Courtney Bowles in 2016. Their film centers on the experiences of formerly incarcerated individuals in an attempt to “destroy stereotypes, transform social service, and advocate for policy changes to keep people free,” according to the event page. The second film being screened is titled Solitary Gardens, by another ABOG Fellow, jackie sumell, and features cell-sized garden beds created through correspondence with those incarcerated in solitary confinement. Afterwards, the ABOG Fellows will hold a discussion with exonerated individuals and artists.

ABOG magazine, Issue 1: “Where” (photo by Karina Muranaga)

Following, at 7:20 pm, there will be a rooftop presentation of a solitary garden constructed by sumell and the LESGC. The garden will feature flowers chosen by incarcerated women and girls who have spent time in isolation. Audience members will also participate through planting the seeds chosen by these incarcerated women.

Finally, at 7:45, there will be refreshments and a DJ, and ABOG will distribute a limited number of print copies of the first issue of their new magazine on socially engaged art. The event is free and open to the public, but ABOG asks that you RSVP by emailing

When: Friday, September 21, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
Where: Lower Eastside Girls Club, 402 East 8th Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan

Deena ElGenaidi

Deena ElGenaidi is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University-Camden in 2016, and her work has appeared in Longreads, Electric Literature,...