Courtney Bowles, The People's Paper Co-op

Courtney Bowles, The People’s Paper Co-op

Courtney Bowles, co-director of The People’s Paper Co-op in Philadelphia, PA, has spent years using art as a vehicle for connecting diverse and often alienated communities. Along with prior TPP grantee, Mark Strandquist, the Co-op partners with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) to organize and facilitate free legal clinics across Philadelphia. In each clinic, participants work with lawyers to clear or clean up their criminal records. Participants then print out their records, tear them up, and put them in blenders to create new, blank sheets of handmade paper. Each participant writes and creates a polaroid portrait in response to the prompt: “Without these records I am…” Both writing and image are then embedded into the new paper comprised of individual’s shredded records. Each piece of new paper is being sewn together to create a giant quilt of criminal records, polaroid portraits, and community reflections.

Courtney and other co-op members have worked hard to build the legal, creative, educational, and political partners to ensure that the project can have lasting impacts on personal and systemic levels.

Courtney explains, “Throughout the project, our roles as artists are closer to those of cultural organizers. While traditional means of self and collective expression are being produced (through images, writing, multi-media), the project reveals a diverse array of visuals, perspectives, and visions for ways forward, and becomes a vehicle for bringing communities together to foster empathy and understanding.”

Funding from the Pollination Project will be used for project expenses such as supplies, materials, postage, and for marketing costs.

To learn more about The People’s Paper Co-op, visit their Website, Instagram and Facebook page.

GRANT AWARD DATE: January 27, 2015