Nicole Fleetwood Curates ‘Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration’

Nicole Fleetwood

This week, FF2 Media is celebrating the 2021 winners of the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grants! Today, we’re celebrating historian and curator Nicole Fleetwood.

Also known as MacArthur Fellows, these extraordinary recipients are awarded $625,000 as an investment in their potential. Each fellow has branched out either creatively or scientifically to earn this grant, and has been nominated and selected by an anonymous board who believes in their originality and insight. The winners were recently named, including many women and people of color in a diverse list of 25 “geniuses” who can spend their no-strings-attached $625,000 however they see fit. 

Today, the spotlight is on Nicole Fleetwood, an art historian and curator who helmed a museum exhibition titled “Making Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” at New York City’s MoMA PS1. This display contains artwork made by incarcerated people while in prison, or while they were formerly in prison. It was also open to their family members.

Fleetwood was inspired by her own experiences of communicating with close friends and relatives who were affected by the corrupt system of mass incarceration. She wanted to reduce the stigma surrounding prison sentences and stand up to the shame people are made to feel in a society that tries to keep incarcerated people invisible. 

In an interview with Nicole Fleetwood for NPR, Andrew Limbong reported that “Throughout the exhibit, Fleetwood mostly avoids bringing up the reasons for an artist’s incarceration. She said it was a way to get out of the rigid frameworks we often use to talk about prison — innocent versus guilty, good people versus bad people, those deserving and undeserving of freedom. Instead, she wanted the exhibition to be a more holistic reflection of American society and its relationship to incarceration.” 

Fleetwood also wrote a book by the same name to accompany the exhibition, which you can purchase here. Through this multimedia project, she combats the dehumanization of incarcerated people and highlights how art is used in prison as a tool for both self-expression and survival. Congratulations, Nicole Fleetwood!


Click HERE to read more about Nicole Fleetwood on the MacArthur Foundation’s website.

© Anna Nappi (10/15/21) Special for FF2 Media.



Featured photo: © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, used with permission.

Tags: Anna Nappi, FF2 Media, International SWANs, iswans, macarthur fellow, MacArthur Foundation, MacArthur Genius Grants, Making Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, nicole fleetwood, Support Women Artists Now

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Anna is currently a senior at Brandeis University studying Film, Journalism, and Psychology. At Brandeis, she writes for the student newspaper and is the undergraduate degree representative of the Journalism program. From theaters to museums to concert halls, she loves exploring the art world in Boston as well as in her Maine hometown. Anna is passionate about FF2’s mission and excited for the opportunity to work alongside a wonderful team dedicated to supporting women artists.
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