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Points of Connection: James “Yaya” Hough

On Display through October 30, 2020

From Mural Arts Philadelphia:

As the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at the Office of the District Attorney of Philadelphia, artist James “Yaya” Hough worked to humanize people living and working within systems of criminal justice by cultivating relationships and connections through his artmaking.

Despite COVID distances and shutdowns, Hough built meaningful relationships with individuals from several overlapping circles – formerly incarcerated people, victims’ advocates, and members of the District Attorney’s office – to paint them in portraits and discuss together what justice means to them. These portraits, titled Points of Connection, and the resulting conversations in one-on-ones and small group salons, provided a window into the larger system, person by person, to approach criminal justice from perspectives of transformation, repair, and growth.

Three of these portraits are on display at Eastern State Penitentiary through October 30, 2020 – John Pace, Patricia Cummings, and Stanley Crawford. Others are on display at locations throughout Philadelphia. Learn more about Points of Connection here.

Meet the Artist
James “Yaya” Hough is a renowned painter who developed and augmented his artistic talents while serving a once-life sentence at Philadelphia’s Graterford State Correctional Institution. Incarcerated in 1992 at age 17, he took art classes and contributed to over 50 murals installed outside of the walls of the prison through Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice program. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison in 2012, and that the ruling would be applied retroactively, he was resentenced and released in 2019. Since his release and return to his native Pittsburgh, Hough’s work has been featured in museum exhibitions at MoMAPS1 and the African American Museum. He also is committed to changing the prison system in Pennsylvania and abolishing life without parole through organizations Decarcerate PA! and Project LifeLines.


The Artist in Residence at the Office of the District Attorney of Philadelphia is supported by Mural Arts Philadelphia, Fair and Justice Prosecution, and the Art for Justice Fund.

2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner