Anthony Papa, artist and manager of media and artist relations for the Drug Policy Alliance, will curate an art exhibit at DPA’s International Drug Policy Reform Conference, October 11-14 in Atlanta, Georgia. The installation will address some of the most prominent drug policy issues in the news, such as mandatory sentencing and the overdose crisis.
Papa will display art he created while in prison after being sentenced to 15 years to life in 1985 for a first time non-violent drug offense under the mandatory sentencing provision of New York’s draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. It was in prison he discovered his artistic talents and captured the prison experience through his paintings. His momentous self-portrait “15 to Life” was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1995. Soon after he was granted clemency by Governor George Pataki in 1996. Last year, he was granted a full pardon by Governor Andrew Cuomo, becoming the first person in the history of New York to receive both clemency and a pardon.
Since his release two decades ago, Papa has been using his art to fight to change the draconian drug laws in the United States.
“This is part of a long lineage of art as social commentary stretching back hundreds of years,” said Papa. “I’ve dedicated myself and my art to helping others regain their freedom and to reforming our disastrous and discriminatory drug laws.”
One feature of the installation will be a replica of a prison cell filled with hundreds of letters from people behind bars telling their stories. The installation will also provide a space where conference participants can create art and display their work to tell their personal stories.
Also on display will be “Nation of Second Chances,” a powerful photography series of President Obama's clemency recipients by Jonathan Perri.