Laurie Jo Reynolds
Laurie Jo Reynolds, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, is an artist, policy advocate, and researcher who has dedicated two decades of work to addressing the negative representations of people in prison. Her “Legislative Art” participates and intervenes in government systems, with the goal of concrete political change. For the past eight years Reynolds has focused on Tamms Correctional Center, the notorious supermax prison in southern Illinois designed for sensory deprivation. In 2007, she collaborated with former and current inmates at Tamms, their families, and other artists to launch Tamms Year Ten, a volunteer grassroots legislative campaign seeking to reform or close the prison. Tamms supermax—which came to symbolize our increasingly punitive, dehumanizing, and counter-productive criminal justice system—was shuttered on January 4, 2013, in part due to Reynolds’s efforts. The campaign featured relentless lobbying and cultural projects, such as Photo Requests from Solitary, which invited men in isolation to request a photograph of anything, real or imagined. Her previous work includes the 2007 cult classic Space Ghost, an experimental video depicting a series of telephone calls from prison juxtaposed with found footage of astronauts and prisoners; and ASK ME!, a 2001 installation that placed Tamms family members and others affected by the prison system behind wooden booths to facilitate conversations with gallery visitors. As a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow, Reynolds researched and advocated for best practices to stop sexual abuse and reduce crime recidivism. She produced cultural events and conceptual art objects as part of an education program to open dialogue about the unintended consequences of the public sex-offender registry and residency restrictions. Reynolds was awarded a 2013 Creative Capital grant for the Honey Bun Comedy Hour, a video and performance variety show depicting the horror, boredom, and small mercies of prison life. The work was named after a packaged dessert that is one of the rare joys in prison, but which also constitutes an addiction and a form of currency. Individual segments from this work will be shown to decision makers as part of targeted campaigns for policy change. Laurie Jo is honored to accept the award on behalf of Tamms Year Ten, and to be joined by survivors Darrell Cannon and Reginald “Akkeem” Berry, Sr., along with Brenda Townsend, whose son was incarcerated in Tamms supermax prison.