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Mia Ruyter and Kristina Binova in Conversation with Shedrick Blackwell and Amaury Bonilla

“As artists, educators, activists, and scholars, we ask ourselves, what is the best way to share quality arts programming with system-impacted community members? How can we participate in the struggle for prison abolition? This workshop involves art creation, reflection, and a discussion on practice. Although our work is fun and joyful and results in positive human connections, first and foremost, our priority is creating a space to deliver programming that heals, educates, and liberates. The friendship, joy, and community that sometimes happen during our programs are part of creating a liberatory space because education and healing are necessary to free them and all of us from the systems in society that lead to the dystopia of mass incarceration.”

Speakers

Kristina Bivona is an artist and scholar living in Philadelphia, PA. She has been practicing art and radical politics for over twenty years. Bivona works in Brooklyn, NY, where she co-established a printshop for prison diversion with Recess | Assembly. Her personal printmaking practice takes the form of artist pop-up books about sex work and incarceration, and she is studying for her doctorate in education at Columbia University.

Mia Ruyter is an artist and educator who coordinates educational programming at Rikers Island for the Justice-in-Education Initiative. She is studying for her doctorate in art education at Columbia University.

Shedrick Blackwell is a Board Member of the Carnegie Hall Musical Connections Advisory Committee. A Harlem native Returning Citizen, and Rehabilitation-Through-the-Arts (RTA) alumnus received his AA in Liberal Arts through the Bard Prison Initiative (2023) and is an accomplished percussionist and actor engaged in the project of prison abolition.

Amaury Bonilla is a Re-entry Counselor at Exodus Transitional Community. A Returning Citizen and Rehabilitation-Through-the-Arts (RTA) alumnus, the Bronx-born-and-raised Bonilla came to the arts as a painter and an actor during his long years of incarceration. More recently, he has been expanding his art to include poetry, music, and storytelling. He is the very proud father to a daughter.

Moderator

Carlos Ivan Calaff is a Research Analyst and Reentry Coordinator at the Center for Justice and Justice-in-Education Program at Columbia University. In 2018 he was released from Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. He is currently studying at the School for Professional Studies at Columbia University. He is a proud Puerto Rican father of two boys, a lifelong Bronx native, an unapologetic Knicks fan, and a musician.