Call for Proposals for Freedom & Captivity: Art on Abolition

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.


We seek work that reflects and inspires the abolitionist imagination. The Freedom & Captivity coalition engages additional themes such as reimagining freedom; fighting surveillance, racism, and stereotypes; supporting youth, parents, and families impacted by the carceral system; and building inclusive communities of care.

Photo, video, or audio documentation of all mediums and disciplines is welcome, including collaborative and community-based projects. This initiative especially invites work from artists impacted by the carceral system. For currently incarcerated artists, please take note of the option to submit work by mail below.

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. Please take note of the different deadlines below. Submissions will be limited to five works per artist.

  • Submission of proposals for new work: Deadline of March 15, 2021 Proposals for new work should respond to the prompt: “What does abolition look like?” or “What does abolition sound like?” Artists will be notified of their accepted proposal by April 15, 2021. Documentation of all finished work must be submitted by June 30, 2021.

    This online resource list provides links to organizations, videos, podcasts, and research for learning about abolitionism.
  • Submission of existing work: Deadline June 1, 2021 Submissions of existing work should respond to the prompt “What does abolition look like?” or “What does abolition sound like?”
  • Submission of existing work by mail: Deadline June 1, 2021 For currently incarcerated individuals, we welcome submission of works by mail. All works will need to be 2D, in any medium, and no larger than 10” x 12”. Please email us at in advance, and we will provide postage for the shipment of your work. All mailed works can be sent to SPACE at 538 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101. SPACE will document all works and share documentation with the artist.
  • Stipends: The Freedom & Captivity Coalition is currently seeking funding to support artist stipends for this virtual exhibition and publication. We will be in touch with all approved applicants about their stipends.

By submitting work, artists are agreeing to allow their work to be included in the Freedom & Captivity: Art on Abolition virtual exhibition (launching August 2, 2021) and to be considered for inclusion in the Freedom & Captivity: Art on Abolition publication (expected in 2022).


  • The Freedom & Captivity Coalition includes Maine-based arts and cultural organizations; scholars, educators and artists; and activist and advocacy organizations working together to explore and promote abolitionist visions in Maine.
  • Indigo Arts Alliance (Portland, ME) has a mission to connect Black and Brown artists from around the world with Maine’s artists of African descent through a multidisciplinary artist-in-residency program that embodies a Black-led approach to creativity, community-building, and mentoring.
  • SPACE (Portland, ME) is a multidisciplinary arts organization, grounded in the belief that vital communities are activated by experimentation, conversation, and camaraderie. As an alternative platform for local, national, and international artists, SPACE prioritizes original collaborations, risk-taking, social justice, and novel forms of public engagement.
  • The Institute for Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art (ICA at MECA) cultivates engagement and dialogue regarding contemporary visual art practices, aiming to foster discourse regarding the critical conversations of our time, and to enhance understanding of visual culture. Located in stunning galleries in Maine College of Art’s landmark Porteous Building, the ICA at MECA presents an exhibition calendar of ambitious work by living artists, operates as a learning laboratory for MECA students, and a center for public programming regarding contemporary art that engages with the local, national and global art community.
  • Maine Youth Justice is a nonpartisan campaign to end youth incarceration in Maine and invest in a range of community-based alternatives that respond to young people’s needs, support families, and build community in support of community alternatives to youth incarceration.
  • Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition is a statewide grassroots social action and change group that advocates for ethical, positive and humane changes in Maine’s prison system. It builds coalition partnerships with incarcerated citizens in Maine’s prisons and jails and throughout Maine to revise policies and practices affecting incarcerated (or formerly incarcerated) people, their families, and victims of crime.

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.


  • Catherine Besteman (she/her) teaches Anthropology at Colby College and directs the Freedom & Captivity project. Her research focuses on racism, immigration/mobility, inequality, and social transformation. A 2012 Guggenheim Fellow, she has also recently received fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies, and in 2020 received the Distinguished Achievement Award for the Critical Study of North America from the Society for the Anthropology of North America. In 2018, she co-curated the statewide Making Migration Visible project with Julie Poitras Santos, which was supported by an NEA grant. She has published 10 books.
  • Skye Gosselin is an organizer with Maine Youth Justice, which advocates the closure of Maine's sole juvenile facility, and a member of the leadership council of Maine Inside Out, which creates original theater to support young people impacted by the carceral system and advocates for transformation. Ms. Gosselin is a musician and performs with Maine Inside Out.
  • Joseph Jackson is the coordinator of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, a group that engages in direct advocacy with the Maine Department of Corrections on behalf of prisoners and their families. Mr. Jackson is also the Youth and Community Facilitator with Maine Inside Out. Mr. Jackson is a returning citizen who spent two decades as a prisoner within the Maine Department of Corrections. As a prisoner, Mr. Jackson completed Literacy Volunteer Training; PEER Education; Work Ready Alternatives to Violence, One, Two, and Three; founded the Maine State Prison chapter of the NAACP; and earned his Associates and Bachelor’s degrees with summa cum laude honors from the University of Southern Maine. He became the first prisoner in Maine to be selected to University of Southern Maine’s MFA graduate program at StoneCoast. He recently completed his Master’s Degree at the University of Southern Maine and was selected as a commencement speaker for his class. His poetry has been published in the on-line news journal Village Soup, the UMA Scholar, the Bangor Daily News, and featured in Portland and Bangor’s NAACP Martin Luther King breakfast catalogs from 2005-2012. His master’s thesis Black In Maine is available at
  • Samuel James is an award-winning singer/songwriter as well as a world-touring musician and storyteller. For more than a decade he has performed extensively throughout the United States as well as more than 20 other countries, back when you could do that kind of thing. James is also a staff writer for and his long-standing column ‘Racisms’ can be found monthly in Mainer Magazine and at
  • Kelsey Halliday Johnson (she/they) is a cultural organizational strategist, interdisciplinary curator, artist, and writer from Philadelphia, living in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary art organization SPACE in downtown Portland. Previously, Johnson worked as a museum curator, performance and live art coordinator, independent cultural project facilitator, and instructor at the University of Pennsylvania and Interlochen Center for the Arts. A graduate of Princeton University, The University of Pennsylvania, and Wesleyan University, Johnson's research has included the aesthetics and rhetoric of fascism, the intersection of art and technology, and the body as a political instrument in performance. Her 2016-2017 multi-site independent curatorial project Making/Breaking the Binary: Women, Art & Technology (1968-85) garnered support from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and activated organizations throughout the Philadelphia region to explore women-identifying artists ahead of the dawn of the personal computing age.
  • Daniel Minter is a co-founder of Indigo Arts Alliance and an artist whose widely exhibited work deals with themes of displacement and diaspora, ordinary/extraordinary blackness; spirituality in the Afro-Atlantic world; and the (re)creation of meanings of home. He has received a Caldecott Honor, a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor, an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and commissions from the U.S Postal Service to create Kwanzaa stamps. As founding director of Maine Freedom Trails, he has helped highlight the history of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement in New England. For the past 15 years Minter has raised awareness of the forced removal in 1912 of an interracial community on Maine’s Malaga Island. Minter is a graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta and holds an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from The Maine College of Art.
  • Marcia Minter is a seasoned creative professional, dedicated arts advocate and community leader deeply committed to social and cultural activism. Her work on numerous boards represents the interest of underrepresented voices, talents and citizen constituents. She has spent her professional career as an Executive Creative Director for some of the world’s most iconic brands. Her curatorial work focuses on photography, symposiums on the intersection of art and social practice, exhibition planning and implementation. Currently she serves on the Maine Arts Commission, and is a Trustee of the Portland Museum of Art and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. In 2019 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Maine College of Art.
  • Julie Poitras Santos (she/her) serves as the Director of Exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art (ICA at MECA) in 2019. Her curatorial work includes co-curating with Catherine Besteman Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks & Pathways (2018) for the ICA at MECA. Accompanied by a state-wide initiative involving over seventy partners, and a symposium, the exhibition was supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work as an artist has been supported by numerous grants and has been exhibited widely, including at the Queens Museum, NY; Bates College Museum of Art; Centre for Contemporary Culture Barcelona (CCCB), Spain; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver. The relationship between site, story and mobility fuels her research and production, including the relationship between natural histories and individual story; walking as a form of listening to site; and material agency in an age of climate change.
  • Lia Wilson (she/ her) is an arts writer and arts administrator. Originally from Chicago, she moved to Maine in 2015 to plant roots after years living in Brooklyn, San Francisco, and Santa Fe.. Wilson has a background managing academic departments in art schools, first for California College of the Arts’ Architecture Division and later for Pratt Institute’s Art and Design Education Department. More recently she was the Communications Manager at the Portland Museum of Art during the institution’s Your Museum, Reimagined initiative, a multi-year revamp project dedicated to expanding access to the museum’s campus and collection. Wilson’s writing practice is focused on elevating contemporary artists that examine the complexities of identity, visibility, and representation. Her research interests include the expanded field of Outsider Art and Self-Taught Art and the evolution of critical discourse surrounding artists with mental illnesses. She has a MA in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts and a BFA in Printmaking from College of Santa Fe.

Key Dates

  • Proposals for new work:

    March 15, 2021

  • Submission of existing work:

    June 1, 2021

  • Accepted work due:

    June 30, 2021

  • Exhibition launch:

    August 2, 2021

  • Submit!


  • Catherine Besteman

    Colby College

  • Skye Gosselin

    Maine Youth Justice

  • Joseph Jackson

    Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition

  • Samuel James


  • Kelsey Halliday Johnson


  • Daniel Minter

    Indigo Arts Alliance

  • Marcia Minter

    Indigo Arts Alliance

  • Julie Poitras Santos

    The ICA at MECA

  • Lia Wilson


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