UNCG Magazine

Artist Sherrill Roland: spotlight on incarceration

After spending months in jail and on probation, he ultimately received a bill of innocence. He turned his experience into art.

Sherrill Roland ’09, ’17 MFA is the founder of the Jumpsuit Project, which raises awareness around issues related to incarceration.

Sherrill Roland at the march 2017 Research and Creativity Expo Research and Creativity, Expo, Graduate Expo, Poster, Graduate School Event

This year, he won the prestigious Southern Prize from South Arts.

Roland created the Jumpsuit Project after a wrongful conviction just as he had started the final year of his master’s program. He spent 10 months in jail. He was exonerated of all charges in 2015 and returned to UNCG to complete his degree. For his MFA thesis project, Roland wore an orange jumpsuit every day on campus, a performance art project supported by UNCG art faculty such as Sheryl Oring. He documented his campus interactions.

Since graduating, he has held many fellowships and residences, such as the Center for Documentary Studies’ 2018-19 Post-MFA Fellowship in the Documentary Arts. He has exhibited his work at museums ranging from the Studio Museum in Harlem to Georgetown University’s de la Cruz Art Gallery.

The project helps viewers understand the social and political issues surrounding the United States justice and prison system. “We have so much trust in the system,” he says. “As a society, we are naïve about how the criminal justice system really works.”

Learn more at www.jumpsuitproject.com

By Mike Harris
Photography by Martin W. Kane

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