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Point of Triangulation by Michelle Jones & Deborah Willis, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Located at 21st Street & JFK Boulevard. Photo: Steve Weinik.
Point of Triangulation by Michelle Jones & Deborah Willis, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Located at 21st Street & JFK Boulevard. Photo: Steve Weinik.

Mural Arts Philadelphia requests de-stigmatization of formerly incarcerated people with ‘Points of Triangulation’

The mural was created by Michelle Jones and Deborah Willis and is situated on 21st Street & JFK Boulevard.

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With a recently unveiled mural — Points of TriangulationMural Arts Philadelphia is asking for viewers and residents to change how they perceive incarcerated people.

The mural was first unveiled in October, during this past Mural Arts Month.

Mural Arts Philadelphia is posing the question by depicting two separate yet similar murals that face one another. The intention is to ask viewers to make a choice.

One mural is headlined with, “once stigmatized,” with the following descriptors: “Second class, deprived, denied, degraded, setback, dehumanized, barriers, alienated; quicksand.”

In this mural, each person depicted is wearing light-colored carceral clothing. In the second, each person is depicted wearing clothing unique from one another, and full of character. 

The second mural is headlined: “always resilient,” with uplifting descriptors that oppose the negativity and stigma of the previous.'

Beneath “always resilient” reads: “passion, gem, catalyst, living testimony, comeback, dignity, beacon, property,” and “spirit.”

Both of the two murals are painted over a backdrop reminiscent of stained glass window art.

Philadelphia is currently one of the most heavily-incarcerated cities in America, and Points of Triangulation seeks to address this reality.

Points of Triangulation was created by Michelle Jones and Professor Deborah Willis through collaboration with Mural Arts Philadelphia.

As Jones explained, the mural depicts life-sized portraits of the participants arranged on eight-foot tall v-flats:

“The idea is that the individual, the observer, will step on the red tape, view the person on the left — who is the same person on the right — but see them in their carceral clothing, and then look at the person on the right and examine within themselves any kind of prejudice or stigma that they would then ascribe to the person on the right,” she said.

Jones and Willis took part in Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Reimagining Reentry program, a 20-month period fellowship starting in 2019 funded by the Art for Justice Fund.

Reimagining Reentry was created to support formerly incarcerated artists utilizing outlets to address mass incarceration in Philadelphia.

The mural was created for Mural Arts Philadelphia’s “rendering justice” exhibition. The exhibition was meant to examine mass incarceration in contemporary America.

Mural Arts Philadelphia, in their own words, explained the goal of the mural on their website:

“The piece is designed to visually depict a choice that an observer has to make. The choice is whether or not to stigmatize a person based on the fact that they are formerly incarcerated. It is a visual examination of how stigma may be weaponized,” shared the organization.

Points of Triangulation is located at 21st Street & JFK Boulevard. 

To learn more about the project, there is an episode of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s podcast, Art Ignites Change, which further explores how the mural came to be.

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