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The Institute of the Arts and Sciences Galleries are closed for summer holiday until September 26, 2023.

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On View

Flowers for Incarcerated Mothers

Sep. 16, 2022 - Jun. 10, 2023

Flowers For Incarcerated Mothers is an art and garden project made in collaboration with artist jackie sumell and over two dozen mothers who are incarcerated–many of whom are serving life-sentences. The incarcerated parents are introduced to the project through letters with images and descriptions of the healing qualities of flowers that can be grown on their behalf. The responses of the parents, and the meaningful reasons why they chose each flower, are shared with their permission as part of the installation.

Location and date

Davenport Jail
70 Center St, Davenport, CA 95017
Sep. 16, 2022 - Jun. 10, 2023

How to view

The Davenport Jail will be open during the Santa Cruz MAH’s CommonGround festival.
Sep. 16 - Sep 18, 2022 from 12pm-3pm
Sep. 23 - Sep. 25, 2022 from 12pm-3pm

A vintage, white, stucco jail building sits alongside two roads.

Imagine a landscape without prisons.

jackie sumell

About the Exhibit

Flowers For Incarcerated Mothers aims to bring visibility and support to the nearly 150,000 incarcerated mothers in the United States. Over half (58%) of all people in U.S. women’s prisons have given birth, as have 80% of people in women’s jails, including many who are incarcerated awaiting trial simply because they can’t afford bail. Most of these parents, the majority of whom are incarcerated for non-violent offenses, are the primary caretakers of their children, meaning that punishing them with incarceration tears their children away from a vital source of support.

A Movement for Abolition

And these numbers do not represent the many people who will give birth while locked up this year: An estimated 58,000 people every year are pregnant when they enter local jails or prisons. The flowers are grown as part of the movement for abolition. The gardens, as sumell puts it, help people “imagine a landscape without prisons.” This would be a world in which punishment is not considered a solution for social problems, one where gender is not used as a tool of state violence and where no parents are in cages. 

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Children plant seedlings in a garden.

Moms in prison

Women are the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population increasing at nearly double the rate of men since 1985. Over 50% of incarcerated women are housed in jails, which have significantly fewer services than prisons. Statistics provided by Operation Restoration in New Orleans.

Flowers For Incarcerated Mothers and Solitary Garden are 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. 
See for more information.

About the artist

A woman with curly brown hair and a gray shirt poses with her arms crossed.

jackie sumell

jackie sumell is a multidisciplinary artist and abolitionist inspired most by the lives of everyday people. Her work has been successfully anchored at the intersection of activism, education, mindfulness practices and art for nearly two decades, and it has been exhibited extensively throughout the world. She has been the recipient of multiple residencies and fellowships including, but not limited to, a Source Fellowship, A Blade of Grass, Robert Rauschenberg Artist-as-Activist Fellowship, a Soros Justice Fellowship, an Eyebeam Fellowship, a Headlands Residency and a Schloss Solitude Residency Fellowship.

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Learn more

About this project

Learn more about the Flowers for Incarcerated Mothers project.

Learn more about Visualizing Abolition.

Learn more about the Davenport Jail.

Learn more about Santa Cruz MAH’s CommonGround festival.