In Conversation: Free Write Arts & Literacy

Friday, Jun 14, 2019 6 – 10 pm

1932 South Halsted #100, 
Chicago, IL 60608

An exhibition of Free Write student artwork alongside new works by over two dozen contemporary artists

Please join Free Write Arts & Literacy for a very special exhibition opening of student work, on June 14 at Chicago Art Department from 6-10pm. Chicago Art Department is located at 1932 S. Halsted #100 in Chicago, IL.

In Conversation invites over two dozen internationally recognized artists to create original work in response to Free Write student visual art, poetry, animations, and audio recordings.

For almost 20 years, Free Write has been working inside locked facilities like the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, offering literacy and arts education to detained youth and young adults. As an extension of this programming, Free Write produces regular publications and exhibitions to bring forth student work and stories beyond the walls of the jail and into the public sphere. These efforts serve to celebrate, validate, and elevate the work of our students, while also instigating complex conversations about the carceral system, justice, and community accountability.


This year, we invite artists from Chicago and beyond to be a part of that conversation. Each piece will be exhibited alongside its source material and included in a printed catalogue, forging discourse and dialogue between artists inside and outside of detention.

Alongside the exhibition, Free Write will host its first major fundraising event on June 22, MoneyBall. The original work created in response to Free Write student artwork will be available for purchase at auction to benefit Free Write’s continued programming and advocacy work.

In Conversation is curated by Chelsea Ross, with assistance from Omar Dyette.

About Free Write Arts & Literacy

Free Write Arts & Literacy engages incarcerated and court-involved youth and young adults in the performing, visual, and literary arts so that they become the narrators of their own stories and the authors of their futures. By co-designing creative space with our students, Free Write supports them as they develop educational and career opportunities that reduce recidivism while also contributing to the public discourse around issues of youth incarceration.

Through one-on-one literacy tutoring and workshops in creative writing, visual art, music production, and workforce development, Free Write students build competencies in reading and writing, art making, technical skills, community building, and critical thinking. Students hone and exemplify these skills through publication, exhibition, and performance opportunities while incarcerated and upon returning to the community.

In the summer of 2000, Free Write began working one-on-one with incarcerated youth in hopes of improving their print literacy skills. The project readily expanded to include creative writing, visual art, and music production workshops, resulting in densely packed and widely distributed anthologies and public exhibitions of student work. To date, Free Write has published seven of anthologies, installed over 50 public exhibitions, and worked alongside over 10,000 detained and criminalized youth and young adults.