Social Justice Home & Abroad: Social Justice Creativity Competition 2010

11. Recidivism Wheel for FUEL Cincinnati

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J Gray


Recidivism Wheel for FUEL Cincinnati (Video no longer available)

“In a 15 State study, over two-thirds of released prisoners were rearrested within three years.” –Bureau of Justice Statistics.

FUEL is a non-profit, seeking to offer services to returning citizens to help them transition back to free society after incarceration. These services aim at building healthy lifestyles, both physically and mentally. FUEL trainers offer classes that build skills in the arts to address issues of time and habit. FUEL trainers also perform and teach meditation arts to help address issues of emotion with returning citizens.

I began working with FUEL Cincinnati when it began three years ago. This is when the idea was born from Susan Angel. I came into the picture as an artist seeking activist initiatives in my local area. I’ve assisted FUEL with multimedia presentations, including a presentation to Cincinnati Mayor Mallory.

FUEL’s home office is on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati. The first floor of the building is occasionally used as a gallery space during Final Friday Gallery Hops. Susan was interested in art as a way to speak to people locally, as well as to the larger community. In Spring 2009 I began the Recidivism Wheel installation within the gallery space of FUEL. They graciously allowed me to drill into their floor and ceiling to install a 150 lb, interactive metal sculpture. At its core were two rusty metal wheels suspended on an iron pipe, secured at the floor and ceiling. I then attached sixteen wood beams that extended out from the wheel to within one inch from the walls. This forced all those who entered the gallery to enter the area of the wheel. When any person wanted to move in or out of the space, all people within had to move.

For me this represented the prison system and recidivism. It was an ominous and aged system that basically didn’t work very well. It was ominous because the size and weight of the interactive sculpture seemed precarious. Moreover, the unfinished wood beams, that one was forced to touch, were quite aged and rough. And, as I stated in the video, for any one person to be able to get in and out of this system, many people had to move together.

I created the video while creating the installation. Susan and some of the trainers were anxious to speak about FUEL and to hopefully communicate their message to a larger society. Some fellow art students at NKU aided in the filming of the wheel and interviews. I also fell back on my music background to create the sound art piece that accompanies the video. This video was displayed at the final opening for the Recidivism Wheel installation at the FUEL gallery. The installation had three successful openings during the summer of 2009.

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