Beyond the Bars Call for Artists

The Beyond the Bars Conference at Columbia University is seeking artwork in response to the theme of this year’s conference: Transcending the Punishment Paradigm. The conference will address the criminal justice system’s responses to violence focusing on the following four questions:

  1. What are the root causes of violence within communities? What are the root causes of state violence? How do the two intersect?
  2. What is needed to makes communities safe?
  3. What are the existing narratives about people who have committed violent acts? How do we change those narratives?
  4. When violence happens in the community, what are responses that decrease mass criminalization and incarceration and do not rely on the punishment paradigm?

We are asking artists to interpret and create works of art that represent the theme of Transcending the Punishment Paradigm. What would our society look like if we understood violence differently, looking at structures, environments and state violence as well as the actions of individuals? And what could it look like if all of our systems and responses were focused on prevention and healing, and on restoration and transformation of individuals and communities, instead of retribution and punishment? We invite you to answer these questions through your art.

Selected artwork will be exhibited at the Beyond the Bars Conference on March 4-5, 2017 in New York City. If you are interested in submitting your work, please read the following guidelines:


  • Sizing: Due to space limitations, art pieces must be two-dimensional and must not exceed 18” x 24”
  • Artist statements: You may submit up to two paragraphs describing each work submitted, along with a brief summary of your art experience, including education, exhibitions, art-related work experience, awards, etc.
  • Format: Submissions must be in the form of drawings, paintings, photography, or graphic deign
  • File type: All artwork must be submitted electronically in JPEG form. Selected artists will be contacted about shipping their original works to us to be displayed at the conference.
  • Shipping: Once we review your submission, you may be invited to ship your artwork to the Center for Justice at no cost to you. All work must be shipped through FedEx. Additional details will be provided when we contact you.
  • Sales: Please be advised that there will be no art dealing at the conference, so you must label your artwork and provide your contact information, website, etc. so we can direct attendees to you in order to facilitate purchases.


We are hoping to exhibit artwork by artists who are impacted by violence and/or the epidemic of incarceration, including but not limited to artists who:


  • have experienced incarceration themselves
  • have experienced incarceration through their loved ones or their communities
  • have worked within the criminal justice system
  • have other experiences related to the criminal justice system
  • have participated in activism, organizing, or advocacy work related to social justice


How to Submit:


To submit your artwork for the 2017 Beyond the Bars Conference, please email with JPEG attachments of the work, your artist statement, and your contact info. Please put “Beyond the Bars submission” as the subject heading. Please allow 2 – 3 days for a response from us regarding next steps, shipping, and additional information. The deadline to submit for artists who need to mail their art is Friday February 10th, however local artists who can bring their piece to us may submit up until Friday February 24th.


Artists who are currently incarcerated may ship their submissions directly to the Center for Justice at Columbia University at the following address and can expect to receive a reimbursement for shipping costs in the form of a money order:


1255 Amsterdam Ave, Rm 828

New York, New York 10030


We encourage submissions from artists of color, artists from the LGBTQ community, and artists whose work represents experiences and identities that are often underrepresented in the arts. We look forward to seeing your work.