2023 Grants Challenge
🎉 Runner Up

Healing & Empowering Through Arts Employment

People's Pottery Project empowers formerly incarcerated women and trans people through our non-profit ceramics arts studio. Guided by formerly incarcerated leaders, our collectively built arts center is a place for healing, education, and community. With support from LA2050, we will more than double our studio space (adding a 3,000 sq ft studio), double the number of formerly incarcerated people we employ (from 7 to up to 20), and provide healing ceramics classes to up to 1,000 members of the community.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Opportunities for People Who Have Been Incarcerated

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Los Angeles is home to the biggest jail system in the world, with an average daily jail population of about 15,000 and costing about $1.4 billion annually. At the same time, women have become the fastest growing incarcerated population, expanding by 700% since 1980. Women return home from prison to stigma, economic precarity, and a lack of supportive services. As Prison Policy Initiative has noted: "Given the dramatic growth of women's incarceration in recent years, it's concerning how little attention and how few resources have been directed to meeting the reentry needs of justice-involved women." For trans and gender non-conforming people, discrimination adds to the impacts of structural racism and gender-based discrimination. Worsened by systemic disinvestment, these forces lead to a high recidivism rate for this group. After decades behind bars, dreaming of life outside, women are returning to a city that does not support their return to society.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

People's Pottery Project's (PPP) mission is to empower formerly incarcerated women and trans people through our non-profit ceramics studio. We put into practice the principle of "Care Not Cages," by centering the needs of people coming out of prison, most of whom are Black, Brown, or Indigenous and LGBTQI. Guided by our formerly incarcerated leaders, we are collectively building an arts-based center for healing, education, and community. In response to the urgent needs of people leaving prison, we provide paid work opportunities and job training in the design, production, and distribution of the People's Bowl and other homewares. We also offer part-time work on a flexible schedule that provides economic stability to people in reentry. PPP offers ceramics classes free of cost to formerly incarcerated individuals. Arts programming is essential for healing trauma and helps recently incarcerated women establish a sense of self, power, and hope. This program offers an inspiring pairing of women in reentry and PPP staff who have navigated this transition home successfully and are leaders in their community. PPP recognizes the need for grassroots advocacy led by directly impacted communities. One of the primary barriers for formerly incarcerated people to advocate for systems change is economic stress and inflexible, low-wage jobs. PPP centers this advocacy by encouraging leaders to participate in coalition movements for safety, justice, and ending mass incarceration.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

At People's Pottery Project (PPP), we celebrate the freedom of every person who walks from the prison gates; our goal is to create a community for them to come home to. PPP's mission is to provide every disenfranchised formerly incarcerated individual access to a therapeutic arts practice and paid vocational training. Over the next year, with increased support, we will expand our programming to provide an additional 3,500 hours of free therapeutic classes for women in reentry and paid training for formerly incarcerated individuals. We will increase sales and production of the People's Bowl, and in the process hire up to 10 additional staff to develop professional work experience in a holistic and supportive environment. This year we will develop the advocacy that is at the center of PPP, by providing support for our members to move into pre-existing coalition spaces to continue fighting for the needs of formerly incarcerated women and trans people.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

In just five years, People's Pottery Project has already had great success. We have trained over 160 formerly incarcerated individuals - with every one of them securing employment, and none of them returning to incarceration. We are proud of our 0% recidivism rate. PPP now employs 7-10 formerly incarcerated people at any given time. We provide paid job training, leadership development, and trauma-informed management systems. PPP has partnered with A New Way of Life to offer free ceramics classes to women in reentry. We have been featured six times in prominent arts publications, bringing visibility to our community and the issues we face while transforming public narratives about incarcerated individuals. Looking forward, we will expand the hours that our formerly incarcerated leaders spend working directly with - and building relationships between - formerly incarcerated individuals and members of the community not personally impacted by the criminal injustice system.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 800

Indirect Impact: 1,600