Freedom to Grow

The Lower Eastside Girls Club & jackie sumell

Nov 17, 2022 – Apr 3, 2023

  • Past
  • Exhibition
Blue shutter doors with butterfly and dandelion mural reading "What can We Imagine For Ourselves, And World?"

Detail of garden shed at Queensbridge Houses, painted by the Lower Eastside Girls Club interns with artist Nani Chacon in the summer of 2021.

Photo credit: Photo by Eliot Engelmaier

Freedom to Grow: The Lower Eastside Girls Club & jackie sumell is the culmination of over two years of collaboration between jackie sumell, the Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC), and MoMA PS1, and an extension of Growing Abolition , a multipart project investigating connections between ecology and prison abolition. Featuring a mural, photos, drawings, plant pressings and medicine, audio interviews, and more, the installation presents the results of sustained conversation and co-creation between sumell and interns from LESGC.

Since the summer of 2021, sumell and a group of interns from the LESGC have participated in a series of workshops and conversations exploring several guiding questions: What can plants teach us about abolition, healing, and expanding our horizons of possibility? What would a world look like in which we all have what we need, with networks of safety and support created by and for our communities? How can we put abolition into daily practice, as a process of creating and nurturing alternatives to the structures that harm us? Designed with the LESGC interns, Freedom to Grow traces the creative journey spurred by these questions. Over the course of their internship at PS1, the LESGC interns engaged in podcast recordings, poetry writing, plantings, trips to local community gardens, tea tastings, and artmaking, all of which find expression in the installation. The space also features a zine for visitors to take home, an invitation to continue exploring questions around abolition on their own.

jackie sumell is a multidisciplinary artist and abolitionist whose work is an expression of gratitude for her elders, fueled by relationship to the natural world. Anchored at the intersection of activism, social practice, ritual, and mindfulness for nearly two decades, she has shared this work extensively throughout the world. sumell has been the recipient of residencies and fellowships from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, S.O.U.R.C.E. Studio Fellowship, A Blade of Grass, Robert Rauschenberg Artist-as-Activist Fellowship, Soros Justice Fellowship, Eyebeam Fellowship, Headlands Residency, Schloss Solitude Residency, and more. sumell’s long term collaboration with Herman Wallace was the subject of the Emmy Award-winning documentary Herman’s House and the driving force behind her abolition-centered practices. She is based in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she continues to work on Herman's House, Solitary Gardens, The Abolitionist’s Apothecary+, and several other community generated, advocacy-based projects.

The Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC) supports young women and gender-expansive youth of color throughout New York City in leveraging their inner power to shape a better future for themselves, their community, and the world. Through free, year-round, innovative programming, they connect young people with their passions, celebrate their curiosity, and channel their creative energy. Together, they are building a just and equitable future filled with “Joy. Power. Possibility.”


November 17, 2022–April 3, 2023




22-25 Jackson Avenue Queens, NY 11101


Freedom to Grow: The Lower Eastside Girls Club & jackie sumell is organized at MoMA PS1 by Jody Graf and Elena Ketelsen González, Assistant Curators, with Mary Baxter, Project Manager of Learning; Madison Colón, Curatorial Intern; Angelo Hallinan, Senior Project Manager of Exhibitions & Commissions; Ife Oluwamuyide, Former Community Engagement Intern; and Citlali Ortiz, Former Public Programs and Community Engagement Fellow.

Lower Eastside Girls Club Interns 2021: Madison Colón, Emily Gamble, Samiyyah Lawson, Abril Macapia, Coco Macapia, Paradise Ocean Phoenix, Lillian Tate

Lower Eastside Girls Club Interns 2022: Angelisse Andrade, Madison Colón, Rasir Corzen, Elsabet Franklin, Emily Gamble, Yajaira Jacobo, Maryam Karamoua, Samiyyah Lawson, Abril Macapia, Coco Macapia, Maya Smith, Jainaba Sowe


Homeroom activations are supported by funding from the Mellon Foundation.

Generous support for the Courtyard installation of Growing Abolition April 23–October 24, 2022 was provided by the Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.


Growing Abolition has been an ongoing project with many collaborators: it was developed with Kelly Webb, Project Lead, Erikka James, Program Oversight / Director of Programs, and Jennifer Lee, Horticulturist, of The Lower Eastside Girls Club. Guest artists and collaborators Nanibah Chacon, Mary Enoch Elizabeth Baxter, Joseph Capehart, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Danielle Flowers, Viva Ruiz, Padre Plaza Community Success Garden, Green Guerillas, Fortune Society, Queensbridge Photo Collective, Ife Oluwamuyide and Danielle de Jesus participated in conversations and art-making with the 2021 and 2022 LESGC interns. The girls also drew inspiration from conversations and co-created podcasts with Sophia Dawson, Joseph Capehart, Timothy James Young, and Mariame Kaba.