Inquiries may be directed to Catherine Besteman at [email protected] 

The Freedom & Captivity Coalition, Indigo Arts Alliance, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at MECA, and SPACE are pleased to announce a national open call for Freedom & Captivity: Art on Abolition, a virtual exhibition and printed publication. The call is broadly inclusive and invites submissions from visual artists (painting, drawing, photography, collage, printmaking, sculpture, graphic design, multi-media work), writers (poetry, prose, experimental writing), and musicians engaged with abolitionist imaginings, as well submissions from cultural workers embedded in decarceration, social justice, and anti-racist advocacy.

“We understand abolition to include both the dismantlement of oppressive and racist systems of policing, incarceration, captivity, and surveillance as well as the commitment to community-led systems of care, strategies to reduce harm, and life-nurturing futures,” said Catherine Besteman, an anthropology professor at Colby College who heads the coalition. “We hope the submissions will help illuminate new ways to imagine abolitionist futures for the 21st century.”

Catherine Besteman

Prompted by the 2020 centennial of our state, many of Maine’s organizations and citizens have undertaken public initiatives to better understand the lesser-known histories of our state in relationship to the global slave trade, the American fight for abolition, and the rise of the contemporary carceral state. Although Maine has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the U.S., at 363 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities), the state still locks up a higher percentage of people than most countries in the world. As a smaller state, Maine is ripe for transformative experimentation. A popular movement to close the lone youth detention facility in our state, along with the devastating impact of the COVID19 pandemic on incarcerated people, have heightened the need for urgent public dialogue about abolitionist futures in Maine. The Freedom & Captivity coalition hopes that local and national artists will help us envision alternative abolitionist futures through this timely open call.

“It is my hope that the Freedom & Captivity project will humanize our incarcerated citizens, and that by recognizing them as valued members of our community, we will transform our system of justice from a system based on punishment and retribution to a system based on healing and restoration,” said Joseph Jackson of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, who is on the jury for the exhibition.

Joseph Jackson

All submissions will be considered by the Freedom & Captivity: Art on Abolition jury: Catherine Besteman, Colby College; Skye Gosselin, Maine Youth Justice; Joseph Jackson, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition; Samuel James, musician; Kelsey Halliday Johnson, SPACE; Daniel Minter, Indigo Arts Alliance; Marcia Minter, Indigo Arts Alliance; Julie Poitras Santos, the ICA at MECA; Lia Wilson, SPACE. There are two distinct submission pathways: one for proposals for new work, another for submission of existing work with different deadlines leading up to the exhibition launch in August of 2021. More information can be found online at