Family Interrupted Project

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Family Interrupted:  Eric Okdeh at Germantown and Dauphin

Some murals just need their own page. I hope you'll agree that "Family Interrupted" is one of them. 

For those of you who have been around the site for awhile--or are familiar with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, you may have learned about the work of mural artist, Eric Okdeh. I have pictures of several murals that Eric has created. In addition, Eric is very active with the Mural Arts' "Restorative Justice Program." He has a deep passion and commitment to this program. The Family Interrupted Project is an amazing project that involved Eric working with many assistants (I'll list them further down), inmates, and their families, and many others. It tells quite a compelling story. From the Mural Arts Program site's page about this project:

One in every 28 U.S. children—or 2.7 million—has a parent behind bars and 23% of students with incarcerated parents are expelled from school, compared to 4% for the general population.

2010 Pew Research Center Economic Mobility Project study “Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s effect on Economic Mobility”

For many, the justice system is a one-way street, where loved ones are locked away, serving time in isolation without outlets to express their emotions, offer regrets, or make amends to the communities and families they have harmed.

Mural Arts’ latest multidisciplinary project, Family Interrupted, sparks a dialogue around the impact of incarceration on families and the community at large through the mural-making process. We will transform a wall on Dauphin Street in North Philadelphia, creating a new work designed by muralist Eric Okdeh, with input from inmates, probationers, and ex-inmates, including the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Philadelphia Prison System, adjudicated youth, and community and family members.

Those of you who know me are aware that I've worked for many years in both legal and medical settings with children and families. Many have been victims of violence, which resulted in somebody's incarceration, and/or have "lost" a loved one who's been "sent away" for a very long time. I found myself viewing and thinking about the Family Interrupted Project from many different perspectives. All of them deeply troubling. 

From a purely creative point of view, I was intrigued by the fact that the mural has an interactive feature which allows you to listen to the testimonials or interact with the project's website. You'll notice several "QR Codes" located on the mural. If you have a smart phone, all you need is to download an app that allows you to scan these codes. (There are several that are free and work quite well.) If you see a picture with a code, stop the slideshow for a moment (bottom right of the picture) and scan the code with your phone's app for scanning those codes.  

For more information about this project, check out Eric Okdeh's blog, as well The Family Interrupted website that was created by Eric. It's really hard to believe the amount of time and work that went into the Family Interrupted Project. Here is the list of assistants that worked with Eric Okdeh on this project. From the "Finished!" page of Eric's blog:  

A colossal amount of thanks to my assistants Briana Dawkins, Salaam Smith, Diana Gonzalez, Katie Lillard, Tjai, Abdullah, Koran Morris, Anthony Peel, Latasha Billington, and the men of my mural class at SCI Graterford. Additionally, a huge thank you to all of the volunteers, and families, that reached out, sharing their stories, pictures, writing, and time. Many people opened their homes to me, brought their children to our peer groups, and welcomed additional interviews and meetings. Im forever humbled by their strength and willingness to be heard.


© Rob Westle 2012