Sophia Dawson, is a Brooklyn based visual artist who has dedicated her life’s work to ministry (service.) Her multidisciplinary practice includes portraiture, performance, public art and video. She uses her platform and influence as an artist to expose the narratives and experiences of people who individually and collectively face injustice. Through her work she aims to humanize social justice issues and to prevent such experiences from being repeated in the future.

Ms. Dawson holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the School of Visual Arts and a master’s degree in visual arts administration from New York University. Her work has been exhibited in Rush Arts Gallery, the Bronx Museum for the Arts, Nathan Cummings Foundation, MFA Boston, and The Bishop Gallery. She is an alumna of the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study program, University Settlement’s Performance Project Residency program, and the Bronx Museum of Art’s first residency program, and The Bishop Gallery Artist Residency Program.

She has been commissioned to create public art projects and interventions by Amnesty International and the Vera Institute of Justice. She facilitates art workshops at Rikers Island through Artistic Noise, a nonprofit that serves court involved youth, and is also a participant in the Rikers Island Faith in Re-entry program where she mentors young adults while they are behind bars and after their release. Some of the subjects of her artistic practice include mothers who have lost their children to police brutality both past and present, the Exonerated 5, and political prisoners from the Black Liberation movement that are still incarcerated within the United States. She works closely with the individuals represented in her work through handwritten letter correspondence to prison institutions, visits, and participating in fundraising events and advocacy efforts for each individual.

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Sophia Dawson on Correspondence: The Installation Part One

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Sophia Dawson on Correspondence: The Installation Part Two

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“Correspondence: The Installation”

 Born from the acclaimed art series “To Be Free”, Artist and Activist Sophia Dawson’s “Correspondence” is a collection of letters and ephemera from incarcerated members of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Movement. The “To Be Free” series explores, through portraiture, the stories of the 20+ remaining US held political prisoners who were jailed for their activism in the black liberation movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The project utilizes art to call attention to their, continued imprisonment and to advocate for their freedom.

The book sheds light on Dawson’s journey that inspired her large-scale portraits, videos, sound pieces, and performances. In 2010, Dawson started working on the “To Be Free” project. It captures, through art, the life stories and experiences of political activists imprisoned in the 60s. Through her work, she attempts to humanize social justice issues through personal stories, raise each political prisoner’s profile in the mainstream, inspire, educate, inform, and direct audiences to support political prisoners’ release in the United States. Since the project began in 2010, eleven political prisoners have been released, including the seven remaining members of the MOVE 9.

Featured activists include Sundiata Acoli, Zolo Azania, Herman Bell, Veronza Bowers, Grailing Kojo Brown, Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, David Gilbert, Robert Seth Hayes, Mumia Abu Jamal, Mohamman G. Koti, Mondo We Langa, Ruchell Magee, Abdullah Majid, Thomas Manning, MOVE 9 (Debbie Sims Africa, Eddie Africa, Janet Holloway Africa, Janine Phillips Africa, and Michael Davis Africa), Virgin Island Five (Warren Ballentine (Abdul Azeez) and Meral (Malik) Smith, Jalil Muntaqim, Sekou Odinga, Ed Poindexter, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Russell Maroon Shoats, Reverend Joy Powell, Kamau Sadiki, Maliki Latine Shakur, and Kenny Zulu Whitmore. 

Curated by The Bishop Gallery, “Correspondence: The Installation” will feature select works from the “To Be Free” series that directly inspire the first volume of Sophia Dawson’s groundbreaking book “Correspondence”. The multi-medium installation will also feature an original film created and produced by Sophia Dawson. The SVA’s Flat Iron Project will host “Correspondence: The Installation” from August 19th – September 19th 2021. The virtual exhibit is on display for your enjoyment below.