Paul S. Briggs takes on mass incarceration

The Galleries at the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI opened the exhibition “Paul S. Briggs — Cell Personae: The Impact of Incarceration on Black Lives,” March 24, 2021. It will remain on view until April 24.

The Herron Galleries hosted one of the most powerful artworks I’ve come across in 2021.

From the Herron Galleries to the nearby Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis has become one of my favorite under the radar arts destinations.

Paul S. Briggs — Cell Personae: The Impact of Incarceration on Black Lives

“Cell Personae” represents Paul S. Briggs’ personal response to America’s other pandemic, the mass incarceration of Black people — an act of grand-scale criminality in and of itself, as well as an ongoing tragedy.

Briggs was raised by his father, a Baptist minister, after his mother died when he was 7-years-old. After studying ceramics, Rabbinical literature, art education, and educational theory and policy, he was invited to speak at a local progressive Baptist church. This experience sparked a 10-year ministry and work focused on issues such as affordable housing, interfaith religious cooperation and mass incarceration.

The 25 rectilinear slab-and-coil sculptures featured in the exhibition — each scaled to the size of a typical 6-by-8-foot prison cell — are a firm and resolved protest against the startling statistic that Black people account for 40 percent of the U.S. prison population, despite accounting for only 6.5 percent of the total American population.

“Art with an informed social consciousness is alive and well at Herron, and ever more so with the arresting work of Paul Briggs,” Joseph Mella, director and curator of the Herron Galleries, said.

Visitor information

Herron’s exhibitions in Eskenazi Hall, 735 W. New York St., are free of charge and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Virtual 360-degree tours will be made available in addition to in-person experiences.

Visit or call 317-278-9410 for more up-to-date information on health and safety protocols, exhibitions, virtual tours, gallery hours, and parking.

About the Herron Galleries

Since 2005, the Galleries at the Herron School of Art and Design have served as a vibrant site of exploration, participation and learning. Herron’s galleries continue to be an innovative educational forum for diverse audiences by providing direct and meaningful encounters with art and artists through a wide range of curatorial projects and public programming.

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