WHO: Isaac Scott, Program Director, The Confined Arts & Arts and Communications Specialist, Center for Justice at Columbia University
By Olivia Mason
BIO: Isaac Scott is a self-taught graphic designer, fine artist and art instructor. He is currently the Arts and Communications Specialist at the Center for Justice at Columbia University. Isaac is also the Program Director for The Confined Arts. He manages 4 websites and 10 social media sites. His passion as an advocate for criminal-justice runs deep, as he is directly affected by the criminal justice system and its disenfranchising nature. Today Isaac is a leader in promoting criminal justice reform through the transformative power of the arts. Since Mr. Scott’s release from prison, he has used his passion for the arts to accomplish goals that could not have been achieved without such a socially valued means of expression. Through his accomplishments in the arts, he is now in a position to assist those artists following behind him. He has made a name for himself within the art sector of the reentry field and holds a position with Columbia University, where he can use his creativity in many different ways to educate and promote change.
O: Hello Isaac. You met Chrissy, Uzeeum’s founder, at the opening of the Visions of Confinement exhibit and she invited you to participate in our Guest Contributors series, can you tell us a little bit about the projects you are currently working on?
I: Sure, “VISIONS OF CONFINEMENT: A LENS ON WOMEN IN THE UNITED STATES PRISON SYSTEM” is our current art exhibition. The project aims to highlight the struggles faced by incarcerated women at a time when the criminal justice system is in crisis and in dire need of reform. The Confined Arts has turned the Hunter East Harlem Gallery into an “educational lounge” for the summer, and will continue to feature: a dialogue wall, artwork, a letter writing station, a listening station, a lounge area, and a small library inside the gallery space–all of which address artistic meditations on how women experience living in confined spaces, life after release, and family interactions.
After an inspiring opening reception, we just held a Justice Forum at the Visions of Confinement exhibition. In my role as Program Director of the Confined Arts, I hosted three days of in-gallery symposiums. These discussions and workshops included the voices, experiences, and expertise of currently and formerly incarcerated artist, poets, speakers, and advocates. The conversations included topics such as aging in prison, experiences of reentry, legislative intervention, mental health, art and its role in mass incarceration, and clemency.
O: Thank you for your important work in this area. We are proud to include university galleries in our coverage of NYC museums because they are able to offer really interesting perspectives at the intersection of art, culture and social justice. When you aren’t busy at the Hunter East Harlem Gallery, what’s your favorite NYC museum?
O: What was the last museum that you visited?
I: The last museum I visited was on a family trip to the The Museum of Natural History and the Planetarium.
O: What’s your favorite NYC experience?
I: My favorite NYC experience is always looking over the city from a high rooftop. Any way you turn the view is amazing.
O: Most romantic NYC recommendation?
I: Ice Skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park
O: What NYC street food are you most likely to eat?
I: Pizza! Hands down. Pizza is almost as important as water.
O: Which museum is on your bucket list?
I: The Farnsworth Art Museum maybe. I’d love to see the art in person. As an artist I have a feeling like the images that I am seeing online can in no way compare to what this art is feels like in person!
O: Which NYC museum do you typically recommend to out-of-towners?
O: Which item might you donate to a museum that best represents your life in NYC?
I: Probably some of the artwork I created in prison. No, actually I would donate the featured picture for this interview, as it is a 100% depiction of what my experience in prison was like.
O: IF I were to hand you $5000 for completing this interview, where are you headed to shop?
I: Dick Blick Art Materials without a doubt.
O: Please briefly describe why you visit museums? How do they inspire you?
I: I usually visit museums right before I curate an exhibition. They inspire what I like to call my “smaller museums”! Each exhibition I curate is a small museum. People don’t just “visit” museums, they experience them, and I make sure they don’t visit my exhibitions either. We make sure they experience our art.
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PHOTO CREDITS & DISCLAIMERS
* Copyright Bruce Conner. CROSSROADS [promotional still],1976. The Museum of Modern Art, New York and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. © Bruce Conner 2016. Courtesy Conner Family Trust
** Copyright Image by Anastasia Varon, Escaping Time: Art from U.S. Prisons
*** Copyright BRIC Arts Media
*^* Copyright Image by Sophia Dawson, Hunter College East Harlem Gallery