Call for Proposals at Eastern State Penitentiary


Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site (Philadelphia, PA)

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site
Call for Artist Proposals, 2021 Season

Proposal Deadline: Uploaded electronically or delivered to Eastern State Penitentiary by Wednesday, June 17, 2020, 11:59 pm

Contact: Sean Kelley, Senior Vice President, Director of Interpretation [email protected] (215) 236-5111 x213

Nearly 100 artists have created installations for Eastern State Penitentiary’s cellblocks and yards. Some of these installations were among the most successful programming the site has presented and many brought perspectives and approaches that would not have been possible in traditional historic site interpretation.

We seek installations that will explore Eastern State Penitentiary’s history and evoke a broad range of emotions. We seek installations that will make connections between the complex history of this building and today’s criminal justice system and corrections policies.

We want to humanize these difficult subjects with personal stories and distinct points of view. We want to hear new voices—voices that might emphasize the political, or humorous, or bluntly personal. We want our visitors to be challenged with provocative questions, and we’re prepared to face some provocative questions ourselves.

In short, we seek memorable, thought-provoking additions to our public programming, combined with true excellence in artistic practice.

If our definition of this program seems broad, it’s because we’re open to approaches that we haven’t yet imagined. Surprise us.

Standard: $7,500 Max

We welcome work that addresses Eastern State Penitentiary’s complex history or architecture, the U.S. criminal justice system, and any subject that makes an emotional or intellectual connection to these subjects. (See “Why Collaborate with Artists?” above.)

Any subject listed below in Criminal Justice Today could also be appropriate for Standard project funding.

A maximum of two Standard projects will be awarded.

Criminal Justice Today: $15,000 Max

We seek an artist or team whose work will complement Eastern State Penitentiary’s programming around contemporary corrections, inspiring reflection on one or more of these central themes:

  • Who goes to prison? Who gets away with it? Why? Have you gotten away with something illegal?
  • How might your appearance, background, family connections or social status have affected your interaction with the criminal justice system?
  • What are prisons for? Do prisons “work”? What would a successful criminal justice system look like?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the U.S. criminal justice system today?
  • Call to action: How can visitors affect change in their communities? How can they influence evolving criminal justice policies? 

These questions reflect the kind of conversations we have with our visitors. It is not necessary for proposals to address any single question directly, rather proposals should consider this broad set of questions as inspiration.

We are interested in artists who propose work that is interactive/participatory. Artists with an existing body of work addressing social change will be given preference; however, we are open to proposals from artists new to this practice if their ideas are particularly strong.

A maximum of one Criminal Justice Today project will be awarded.


Opportunity Opens

Monday, Nov 11th 2019

Opportunity Closes

Wednesday, Jun 17th 2020, 11:45pm

Application Location

MN Artists