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Federal Court Gallery in Brooklyn tells the history of incarcerated girls in New York

Incorrigibles exhibition on display at Brooklyn Federal Court through Jan. 11

October 16, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Alison Cornyn, who helped put together the Incorrigibles project, is one of four artists on display at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Downtown Brooklyn. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

A new art gallery depicting the history of incarcerated women in New York over the last 100 years opened at the federal court in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday titled “Bearing Witness: Incorrigible Girls of New York.”

The display, located in the courthouse lobby’s Hon. Charles P. Sifton Gallery, features artwork from artists Alison Cornyn, Beth Thielen, Diana Weyman and Aaliyah Mandley.

“There were institutions for girls, for orphans, for men, for boys, for people with intellectual disabilities, people who were hidden away and became unnoticed,” said Hon. Robert Levy, who curates the courthouse’s gallery. “It is through the work of artists like Alison and others that their stories come to life for us otherwise they would be forgotten.”

The project features archival images and documentation from the New York State Training School for Girls that was open from 1904 until it was closed in 1975. Included in the display are oral histories of women who were incarcerated there in the 1960s and 1970s and includes a short film about the Hudson, New York girls prison.

“Art is a product of its times,” said Judge Levy. “Whether consciously or unconsciously it reflects the society in which it is created. Courts too are products of their times. They hear and decide cases that bubble up because of issues of the day. Often the vision of the artist and the work of the court intersect in surprising and unexpected ways. The Incorrigibles is at the same intersection between art and the law.”

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The courthouse invited many child advocates to the courthouse for the gallery opening. Judge Levy discussed how New York City currently handles what it calls PINS, or Persons in Need of Supervision as the New York City Family Court refers to unruly minors. He pointed out that often the behavior of the so-called PINS is the result of neglect and abuse.

“The thought is that there may well be a way to deal so-called PINS without putting them in institutions and putting them in better places,” Levy said.

The gallery opening also featured a musical piece by Ella Wylde, a Saint Ann’s High School student, titled, “Story of a Woman.”

 

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