About The Exhibition

Souls of A Nation is a national portrait exhibition that builds power through storytelling. The online exhibition is a space for meditation, reflection and education about the impacts of systemic injustice. The portraits feature individuals from across the United States. Many have shared their stories to advocate for change.

The Background

Souls of A Nation features life-size portrait drawings of people who have been impacted by pervasive and often interlocking injustices. These include issues of economic justice, environmental justice, criminal justice, systemic poverty, systemic racism, voter suppression and denial of civil or human rights.

The featured portraits and stories are just some of the millions from across the United States who are confronting unjust laws, policies and institutions. In particular, Black Americans, communities of color and the poor are disproportionately impacted by bad public policies, which harken back to the antebellum and post-reconstruction eras. As a nation that strives to expand democracy to all people, we have the power to exorcize this haunting presence out of our system, by enacting transformative public policies rooted in a social justice agenda. Such policies can include:

  • Economic justice, and living minimum wages of at least $15+/hour, universal health care, and affordable and adequate housing for all;
  • Voting rights, and an end to voter suppression and all it’s modern day manifestations; 
  • Environmental justice, and stopping government and corporate actors from targeting and contaminating poor communities with dangerous chemicals, toxic waste and pollution; 
  • Criminal justice reform, and ending mass incarceration, strengthening the public defender system, and stopping the over-policing of Black, Brown, and poor people; and
  • Reproductive justice, and protecting the reproductive rights of all women and childbearing persons, including those who are incarcerated.

The Souls of A Nation exhibition is a nonpartisan and independent project produced by Brooklyn-based artist and advocate Joe Ward, who serves as Justice Arts Fellow for Repairers of the Breach and The Poor People’s Campaign. The project was conceptualized in 2021 and supported through a year-long arts residency program and grant provided by Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. The project is an ongoing arts advocacy campaign with in-person exhibitions coordinated in partnership with nonprofits, advocacy groups and arts institutions.

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