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The Writing on the Wall, a collaboration between artist Hank Willis Thomas and scholar and activist Dr. Baz Dreisinger, is an installation covering the walls, ceilings, and floors of the Davenport Jail, with writing by individuals in prisons around the world. As a presentation of the crisis of global criminal legal systems, these letters visually convey the narratives, thoughts, and emotions of the people behind bars.

The Davenport Jail is a two-room county jailhouse built in 1914 in Davenport, California. Now a museum, administered by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, the Davenport Jail provides regional context for the larger tragedy of incarceration evocatively layered onto its walls.

Learn more about the Davenport Jail, the exhibition, and the artists here on the Institute of the Arts and Sciences website.


  • ​Free and open to the public.
  • Attend in person.
  • Hours of operation:
    • Fri, Sept 16—Sun, Sept 18, 2022, from noon–3:00 p.m. 
    • Fri, Sept 23—Sun, Sept 25, 2022, from noon–3:00 p.m. 
    • Sat, Oct 1, 2022—Sat, June 10, 2023, open every Saturday from noon–3:00 p.m. 
      (excluding holidays)

The Writing on the Wall is organized by Rachel Nelson and Gina Dent in partnership with the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History as part of "Visualizing Abolition," a public scholarship initiative at UC Santa Cruz designed to shift the social attachment to prisons through art and education. Funding for "Visualizing Abolition" is provided by the Mellon Foundation. The project is an initiative of the Incarceration Nations Network and has previously been exhibited in Detroit, New Orleans, Miami, Philadelphia, and New York City, including as part of the High Line Network Joint Art Initiative.

photo credit: Image courtesy of Cameron Blaylock. 

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