Demos Publication Available

Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility, the Book from ERNEST on Vimeo.

ERNEST worked with Container Corps to create a publication as one part of our larger artwork, Demos, dealing with the nearby empty Wapato Correctional Facility.  The publication is 31 pages long, and contains 5 original essays. Includes contributions from Ace Lehner, Sarah Fontaine, Ernest Jerome DeFrance, Pete Brook, Dan Gilsdorf, and ERNEST. Available here via c3:initiative.

Press Coverage for Demos

Harned, Megan. “Top 5 Visual Arts Shows: Fall Arts Guide,” Willamette Week, 8 September 2015.

Spitz, Enid. “Look Inside St. John’s Unoccupied Jail; Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility makes the NoPo point of contention into art,” Willamette Week, 13 November 2015. 

Anderson, Jennifer. “Wapato Stars in Artful Video, Book,” Portland Tribune, 5 November 2015.

Jahn, Jeff. “Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility by ERNEST,” PORT, 11 November 2015.


Sept 18 & 19: Opening Reception & Wapato Roundtable

Video Still, 2015

ERNEST, Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility, video still, 2015, made in residence at c3:initiative

Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility
A project by ERNEST

September 18–November 22, 2015
Gallery Hours: Fri–Sun, noon–5pm at c3:initiative

Opening Reception
Friday, September 18, 6:30-9:30pm
c3:initiative | 7326 N. Chicago Avenue, Portland 97203

Visitors are invited to join c3:initiative and the artists from ERNEST in marking the opening of Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility. Complimentary drinks and light refreshments will be served.

Wapato Roundtable
Saturday, September 19, 11:00am-1:00pm
St. Johns Community Center | 8427 N Central Street, Portland 97203

The roundtable component of Demos provides a platform for exploration, open conversation, and a broadened investigation of themes relating to the empty jail facility, both locally and nationally. The schedule includes a panel discussion with Emanuel Price, Melissa Salazar, and Yaelle Amir and a community meal and conversation.
This event is free and open to the public; space is limited.
RSVP required:

Reading Group: The New Jim Crow | Wednesdays, October 7, 14, 21, 7:00-8:30pm
Stories in Movement | Saturday, November 7, 5:00pm
No Thank You Democracy, The politics of non-participation | Sunday, November 22, 4:30pm

c3:initiative presents Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility, a multi-part art project by Bay Area working-group, ERNEST. Demos is the culmination of ERNEST’s two-year artist residency at c3.

While in residence at c3:initiative, ERNEST learned about Wapato Correctional Facility, a jail located fifteen minutes from Downtown St. Johns, Portland, that has sat empty since it was built in 2004. Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility probes the many concerns that the vacant jail suggests: breakdowns in democracy, prevailing power structures and others. The project’s title takes its meaning from various interpretations of the word “demos”. The Greek word “demos” (pronounced “day-moss”), refers to the “village” or “people.” In English, “demo”, is used as a shorthand for “demonstration”, as reference to the “demo mix-tape”, or as the vernacular for “demolition”. ERNEST thus uses “demos” to refer to its interest in keeping their methods experimental and provisional, while creating opportunities for local participatory engagement.

Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility will comprise a video, publication, limited edition print and a roundtable event.  Acting as a conjuror of sorts, the character of Coyote leads the video component of Demos, transforming the specific architecture, history and politics of Wapato Jail into a platform for conversation and collaboration. The project’s publication is created in collaboration with Portland art press, Container Corps, and includes a collection of essays, artworks, research, and primary documents. Its contents are both specific to Wapato Correctional Facility, and related to general issues of incarceration, participatory citizenship, and the role of art in social justice and storytelling. The roundtable component of Demos will provide a platform for exploration, open conversation, and a broadened investigation of themes relating to the empty jail facility, both locally and nationally.


ERNEST is a working-group comprised of a flexible roster. Shifting the focus away from the individual identities of the artists, ERNEST provides a democratic means for artists to make work that challenges dominant ideas about site, body, and power.

c3:initiative is a nonprofit art organization dedicated to process-based exploration. Based in Portland, Oregon, c3 connects creators and communities through three distinct residency programs, a studio incubator initiative, and integrative exhibition and public programming.

c3 is committed to creating partnerships, facilitating artistic exchange, and developing educational opportunities by cultivating dialogue amongst various communities.


“How Coyote happened to make the black moss food”




Reading Mourning Dove’s Coyote Stories, ERNEST learned about an edible black moss foraged by the First Nations in the Pacific Northwest. In Mourning Dove’s story How Coyote happened to make the black moss food, Coyote – after a series of misadventures, of course – gets caught up in a tree and has to cut off some of his fur to get down, leaving it behind in the tree. Coyote transforms his hair into wila (Bryoria fremontii), a black lichen, and declares that it should not go to waste. Rather, people should gather and eat it.

Wila is foraged from conifer branches and traditionally prepared by soaking it and cooking it in a pit. Send us your wila recipes, if you have ’em! Here’s the wikipedia entry.

SCAFE (Second Chances Are For Everyone)

ERNEST is honored and excited that Emanuel Price will be one of the guest panelists at the Wapato Roundtable event on September 19, 11am-1pm, at St Johns Community Center. Emanuel is the founder and current Executive Director of Second Chances Are For Everyone in Portland, OR. S.C.A.F.E. works to reduce the rate of recidivism by providing support services to promote employment, empowerment, and community engagement for men in transition because Second Chances are for Everyone. Price is currently leading the organization in developing key programs and resources that will help reduce criminals going back into destructive lifestyles after being released from jail or prison. More information about Price is available here.

Melissa Salazar, Wapato Roundtable Panelist

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 6.44.17 PM

Melissa Salazar, ‘Drugs Are Everywhere,’ video, 4:48, 2015

After spending a day at Wapato Jail together in December, ERNEST invited Melissa Salazar to present her work at the forthcoming Wapato Roundtable event.

Melissa Salazar is a May 2015 graduate of Pacific Northwest College of Art, where she studied Communication Design. Melissa has recently become involved in activist work focusing primarily on incarceration of black and brown individuals. She has been influenced by events in her own life and seeks to bring awareness to an invisible society behind bars.

From Melissa’s video text: Incarceration has many effects not just on the lives of those being held but for the one’s that are left behind as well. The War On Drugs incarcerates many non-violent individuals for lengthy amounts of time with some serving more time than violent offenders. This is the beginning of an even bigger project that I plan to expand on in the future while exploring different approaches to incarceration.

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 6.49.48 PM

Melissa Salazar, ‘Drugs Are Everywhere,’ video still, 4:48, 2015

To Shoot a Kite

Yaelle Amir – new Portland resident and curator-in-residence at Newspace – will be one of the panelists in September’s Wapato Roundtable event.

ERNEST got turned on to her work by way of her 2014 exhibition, To Shoot a Kite, at CUE Foundation, NYC. This interview with her and Creative Capital as well as a mutual friend led us to reach out.

In addition to being a panelist at the Wapato Roundtable, Yaelle will also be leading a Weekly Reading Group in October focused on the Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow.

Wednesdays, October 7, 14, 21, 2015
7-8:30pm Weekly Reading Group to consider the seminal book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. The discussion is being initiated by Yaelle Amir, Curator at Newspace Center for Photography, yet will be led and motivated by group participants and invited guests. Sectioned into three meetings, the group will discuss the main issues addressed in the book: the origin of mass incarceration in the U.S.; the racialized structure of the U.S. justice system; the aftermath and legacy of mass incarceration.


From the CUE Foundation website:

Required Reading

July 5 – August 5, 2014 | CUE Art Foundation, New York, NY | Venue Website

Artists and Projects: Julie Green, Ashley Hunt, Lucky Pierre, Prison and Neighborhood Art Project (P+NAP), Sarah Ross, Dread Scott, Jackie Sumell, Tamms Year Ten, and Temporary Services.

Over the past two decades, the U.S. prison population has increased by 700%, even though our total population has grown by only 20%, and our crime rate has decreased. With over two million incarcerated people, we lock away more individuals per capita than any other country that publishes these statistics. In prison-speak, a ‘kite’ represents notes or letters, and ‘to shoot a kite’ means to send a message. The exhibition To Shoot A Kite includes projects that represent the work of a select group of artists who have set out to relay the severe conditions of U.S. prisoners and expose our broken justice system. In so doing, they are re-framing the narrative surrounding the incarcerated—providing a platform for public expression and advocating for change both from within and out of the prison system. Each project takes on a different form – from documentation and data visualization to offering services and advocacy – which provides a link between the incarcerated and the outside world, portraying their conditions, and personalizing the abundant, yet anonymous data about the prison system.

*This exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Yaelle Amir, Ashley Hunt, and Lilly Lampe. To obtain a copy, contact CUE Art Foundation.

Ban the Box!

Here’s some info about the current Ban the Box campaign in Portland to put their criminal histories in context when they are searching for employment and to disempower the labels: “felon” and “criminal”.

Koin News: Oregon Campaign To Help Ex-Convicts Seeks To “Ban The Box”
“The ordinance would prevent Portland employers from asking about criminal convictions on job application forms.”

Jefferson Public Radio: ‘Ban the box,’ says felon with master’s degree
“Emmanuel Price: ‘I would oftentimes fill out applications for jobs or housing and as soon as I turned my application in, I could read the body language and I could see the look on their face and I could knew I would not either one, get that job or get that apartment. And that repeated itself for ten years over.’ Price is founder of a Portland-based non-profit called Second Chances Are For Everyone, which advocates for and offers support to ex-offenders.”

Second Chances are for Everyone:

A screenshot from an amazing interview with Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow) touching on the broader impacts of, and reasons for, Ban the Box
Youtube: Moyers and Company, Michelle Alexander: Locked Out of the American Dream

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 1.00.35 PM

ERNEST Cocktail Party at c3:initiative

Thank you c3, St. Johns, and all who came out to the cocktail party! Here are some photos.

April 1, Wed, 7pm
c3 initiative, 7326 N. Chicago Ave, Portland


ERNEST, “Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility”, video still


Please join current c3:residents ERNEST for in-process selections from their residency project, Demos: Wapato Correctional Facility. The project will launch in September 2015 with a video screening, event, and publication. 

Enjoy complimentary tacos by Taqueria Santa Cruz, cocktails by Central Hotel, and guest DJ St. Johns local Ian Youngstrom.

The evening is free and open to the public, and all are welcome. RSVP encouraged.

Roll On Columbia, Roll On… “Don’t talk, just sing, Woody”

Turns out that “rabble-rouser” Woody Gutherie was hired for a one-month temporary gig to to visit the Columbia River area and write songs that “raised the standard of living” of the people in the area. This was during the WPA and was funded directly by the BPA (Bonneville Power Administration).

Prior to his meeting for the gig, he was advised “don’t talk, just sing” so that he didn’t get carried away sharing his opinions and “expose the inequities of the Capitalist system”! He got the job (despite his politics!) and managed to insert some of those opinions into his lyrics anyway.

Roll on Columbia, Roll On

Uncovering this fascinating history led us to look up his more well known song, This Land.

From Wikipedia:

Following are the original lyrics as composed on February 23, 1940, in Guthrie’s room at the Hanover House hotel at 43rd St. and 6th Ave. (101 West 43rd St.) in New York, showing his strikeouts. The line “This land was made for you and me” does not literally appear in the manuscript at the end of each verse, but is implied by Guthrie’s writing of those words at the top of the page and by his subsequent singing of the line with those words.

The original title was “God Blessed America”, but it was struck out and replaced by “This Land Was Made For You & Me“. It appears therefore that the original 1940 title was “This Land”.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From the California to the Staten New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
As I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway,
And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

According to Joe Klein,[7] after Guthrie composed it “he completely forgot about the song, and didn’t do anything with it for another five years.” (Since there is a March, 1944, recording of the song, Klein should have said “four years”.)

Original 1944 lyrics

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

Note that this version drops the two political verses from the original: Verse four, about private property, and verse six, about hunger.

Confirmation of two other verses

A March 1944 recording in the possession of the Smithsonian, the earliest known recording of the song, has the “private property” verse included. This version was recorded the same day as 75 other songs. This was confirmed by several archivists for Smithsonian who were interviewed as part of the History Channel program Save Our History – Save our Sounds. The 1944 recording with this fourth verse can be found on Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Volume 1, where it is track 14.

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.

Woody Guthrie has a variant:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

It also has a verse:

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

Video Editing Session in Bernal Heights

Putting things together with the video this week at our SF Bernal Heights outpost. This Monday we head to Portland again to work with PNCA’s Watershed Press, prep for September’s event and publication, and for a c3 cocktail event Wed eve.

 photo 1

George, Hannah, and Welly storyboarding video footage on Day 1.


photo 2

Susan O’Malley sighting at Outer Mission and Cortland (next to Zante’s Pizza). <3



Stop the Proposed SF Jail

Image from Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB)’s website

Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) is leading resistance to the proposed “replacement jail” in SF County. See the resources below and sign up for the email newsletter to get involved:


SF County Sheriff Mirkarimi wants to spend anywhere from $290-$465 million to build a new “replacement jail” in San Francisco County. Please join us in signing this Open Letter to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors: We Can’t Afford a New County Jail!
If you would like to sign-on click here!


“Incarceration’s Front Door”


Doors at Wapato Correctional Facility

A new study about the state of the nation’s jails was just released by the Vera Institute of Justice. From their website:

Local jails, which exist in nearly every town and city in America, are built to hold people deemed too dangerous to release pending trial or at high risk of flight. This, however, is no longer primarily what jails do or whom they hold, as people too poor to post bail languish there and racial disparities disproportionately impact communities of color. This report reviews existing research and data to take a deeper look at our nation’s misuse of local jails and to determine how we arrived at this point. It also highlights jurisdictions that have taken steps to mitigate negative consequences, all with the aim of informing local policymakers and their constituents who are interested in in reducing recidivism, improving public safety, and promoting stronger, healthier communities.