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apexart :: Public Program :: Art and Social Justice on Death Row
Public Program
Art and Social Justice on Death Row
A Panel Discussion


In conjunction with the exhibition
Life After Death and Elsewhere
a collection of memorials made by death row inmates
organized by Robin Paris and Tom Williams

Saturday, September 19, 2015
4 pm

Five individuals who are deeply involved with prisoners
on death row will discuss their work and possible reforms
to the prison system.

Lisa Guenther
Ndume Olatushani
Robin Paris
Cathleen Price
Tom Williams

download panel video (469MB .mp4)


download Q&A video (286MB .mp4)
Ndume Olatushani will speak about his experience living as a death row inmate for 19 years; Lisa Guenther, who has worked with these same death row inmates through a prison philosophy program, will explain her research on the death penalty and solitary confinement; Cathleen Price will share stories of her work with the Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal representation to those who have been denied fair treatment in the legal system; and the exhibition organizers, Robin Paris and Tom Williams, who have been working for years with inmates in Unit 2 at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville, Tennessee, will talk about organizing this exhibition.

Join their conversation about why they do the work they do and what changes they think are necessary in the United States prison system.


Lisa Guenther is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration (Fordham University Press, 2015) and Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives (Minnesota University Press, 2013). She facilitates a philosophy discussion group with men on death row on Tennessee.

Robin Paris is associate professor and chair of the Department of Photography at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a graduate of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and the Savannah College of Art and Design, and she has taught at Belmont University and The University of the South, Sewanee. Her work has appeared in exhibitions throughout the country. She has been co-facilitating the art workshop in Unit 2 (the Death Row unit) of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution since 2013. Her recent work has involved collaborations with its residents.

Cathleen Price is a 1996 graduate of Harvard Law School who works to confront the disaster of mass punishment that has resulted from the over-reliance on the prison system as a solution to our society's problems. Since 1997, she has worked on behalf of death-sentenced prisoners, other offenders subject to excessively harsh punishments, and communities marginalized by poverty and chronic discrimination. Following a clerkship with Justice Fred L. Banks, Jr., of the Mississippi Supreme Court, the bulk of her career has been spent with the Equal Justice Initiative, a dynamic non-profit law project that is widely recognized as one of the foremost human rights advocacy organizations in the United States. Ms. Price continues to litigate on behalf of individuals, advocate before legislators and other policymakers, and serve as faculty at training seminars on the death penalty and related topics. In addition to direct legal assistance, Ms. Price undertakes community education projects, and provides consultation assistance to lawyers, activists, and organizations whose work challenges the despair of our system of criminal justice. She also currently teaches in the American Studies department of Columbia University in New York, where she received her B.A. in 1992. In 2004, Harvard Law School awarded her its Gary Bellow Public Service Award.

Ndume Olatushani was freed in 2012 after serving nearly 27 years in prison, 19 of which were spent on death row. Johnson, who maintained his innocence throughout the process, was sentenced to death for the 1983 murder of a grocer in Memphis. In 2004, he was resentenced to life in prison after the state Supreme Court found that prosecutors did not disclose important information to the defense. In December 2011, Johnson was awarded a new trial by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in light of new information indicating state’s witnesses may have been motivated to protect other suspects. If the jury had known of this motive, it could have weakened the witnesses’ credibility, and might have resulted in a different verdict. Johnson entered an Alford plea (a guilty plea in which the defendant accepts that the weight of the evidence would likely result in a guilty verdict, but still maintains his actual innocence) to second-degree murder, in exchange for a sentence of time already served. Prison officials called him an exemplary prisoner.

Tom Williams is assistant professor of art history at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a graduate of Stony Brook University and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, and he has taught at the School of Visual Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, New York University, and Vanderbilt University. His writings have appeared in Art in America, Grey Room, and other publications. He has been co-facilitating the art workshop in Unit 2 (the Death Row unit) of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution since 2013.

Please join us for this apexart event.

apexart's exhibitions and and public programs are supported in part by the Affirmation Arts Fund, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Edith C. Blum Foundation, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.


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