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ESPHS Awarded Pew Center Grant for Outdoor Film Series

Eastern State Penitentiary Awarded Pew Center Grant to Produce Outdoor Film Series “Hidden Lives, Illuminated” -- The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage awards Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site $297,000 project grant --

June 19, 2017

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has been awarded a project grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to produce a series of animated films titled “Hidden Lives, Illuminated,” to debut in fall 2019.

Eastern State will commission four original short films by artists living or working in prison. The films will focus on daily life in some of the most hidden and inaccessible spaces in America. Each film will be projected onto the penitentiary’s dramatic façade for one week, followed by a festival featuring all four. Nightly events co-hosted with advocacy groups, and robust community engagement, aim to encourage empathy, stimulate dialogue, and inspire social change.

The nature of the criminal justice system in the United States is that it works in courtrooms and behind prison walls, often hidden from view for mainstream Americans. “Hidden Lives, Illuminated” will shed light on this critical contemporary subject. People who spend their days in prisons—incarcerated men and women, yes, but also prison officers or staff—can use those walls to express their joy, rage, boredom, heartbreak or dreams.

"Hidden Lives, Illuminated” showings will be free and open to the public. No reservations required.

About The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage:
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is a multidisciplinary grantmaker and hub for knowledge-sharing, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in Greater Philadelphia. The Center fulfills this mission by investing in ambitious, imaginative projects that showcase the region’s cultural vitality and enhance public life, and by engaging in an exchange of ideas concerning artistic and interpretive practice with a broad network of cultural practitioners and leaders. 

About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site:
Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America's most notorious criminals, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and Al Capone.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is located at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue, just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The penitentiary is open seven days a week, year round. When purchasing online, admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $10 for students and children ages 7- 12. When purchasing at the door, admission is $16, $14, and $12, respectively. (Not recommended for children under the age of seven.) Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; Hands-On History interactive experiences; history exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.

For more information and schedules, the public should call (215) 236-3300 or visit

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage“Hidden Lives, Illuminated” has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage


  • Nighttime Facade Image Code: BT02

2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner