The halls of Jerome Greene Hall were abuzz with discussion on Tuesday about the art lining the walls: the work of death row inmates, part of the opening reception for “Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls.”
The Law School hosted the opening reception to the art exhibit. Open to the public, “Windows on Death Row” is an exhibit created by New York Times cartoonist Patrick Chappatte and filmmaker Anne-Frédérique Widmann that showcases pieces created by U.S. prisoners on death row and political cartoonists whose work also deals with the U.S. death row. The Law School will host the international exhibit for three months.
The Law School is the first law school to host “Windows on Death Row.” Professor Jeffrey Fagan and Dean Ellen Chapnick brought the exhibit to the Law School, with the assistance the school’s communications and events staffs.
Fagan said he initially proposed bringing “Windows on Death Row” to campus over a year ago, when he met Widmann and heard about her work.
“This event is meant to spark dialogue and discussion—it’s an educational forum, not a form of activism or advocacy,” said Nancy Goldfarb, director of public affairs at the Law School.
The opening reception included a presentation by Chappatte and Widmann, a roundtable discussion with Law School faculty, artist and former death row inmate Ndume Olatushani, and Olatushani’s lawyer.
Law School Dean Gillian Lester opened the reception and remarked on her experience interacting with the exhibit.
“When I viewed the exhibit in these quiet halls, I was fascinated by what I saw, but I was also profoundly moved [by] ... its humanity. The immediacy, even intimacy of viewing the work of a person on death row who’s battling with his or her own demons, thoughts, [and] emotions,” said Lester.
Fagan and Chapman have planned several events following the opening ceremony to go along with the “Windows on Death Row” exhibit, including a performance of “The Exonerated”—a play based on the six stories of wrongfully convicted death row inmates—by members of the Columbia University community during the final week of the exhibit.
“This exhibit is not about relitigating guilt or innocence. Instead what it does is it reveals how inmates, through their art, find an outlet through which they can express their inner thoughts and emotions, their very human experiences,” said Lester.
The “Windows On Death Row” exhibit is on view in Jerome Greene Hall through Nov. 17.