Refoundry’s innovative model is based on the three pillars of collaboration, self-reliance and entrepreneurship, and is designed around creative activities which have special meaning to our participants, and which build skills, self-worth, and community.  Each item produced, crafted from reclaimed material by hand, highlight and value each maker’s experience, creativity and industry.   

Refoundry’s Hand-in-Hand public art project seeks to extend this process by inviting the entire community to participate together in a co-creative public art project that affirms the creativity, value and individuality of all our citizens. People from across our diverse city are invited to have their hands painted – and to paint the hands of others – and imprint them on reclaimed pieces of pine for inclusion in public artwork and exhibits.   

Over the last four decades America has become a nation of incarceration: Each year we have more than 2.3 million people in our prisons and jails, at an average cost of $32,000 per person; in NYS the cost is $60,000 per person per year and in NYC the cost is $167,000. Equally troubling, more than 50 million Americans have a criminal record. When arrested, their hands are “printed” for identification. In this way the state coopts identity and brands these individuals as criminals for life, disseminating that “record” through our society in ways that creating barriers to employment, housing, and essential services for millions of our fellow citizens.  

Refoundry’s Hand-in-Hand project is designed to contrast and transform this process, creating a new experience and association with hand-printing – one that is positive, creative, and industrious, and which allows formerly incarcerated and other marginalized people to reclaim their identity and self-agency while embracing, and being embraced by, the wider community.

Painting the hand draws attention to its features and capabilities: Through the course of each day we use our hands in ways that are creative and nurturing as well as violent or destructive. Each of our hands – the unique swirls and deep lines, the shapes of our fingers and bones, scars and other distinguishing features – tell the rich stories of our lives. 

Signing our names and dating these pieces, like signing a piece of art, preserves a record of this process – again, in contrast to the criminal “record” with which tens of millions of Americans are often stigmatized both in and out of prison. 

In addition, painting and printing someone else’s hand, or having our hand painted and printed by another, employs safe yet intimate touch within a common creative process which can help build trust and empathy. 

When people examine their own handprint together with others – each clearly distinguishable as a human hand yet distinct in color, shape and composition– they can discover a commonality alongside the beauty and uniqueness that distinguishes each of us 

Taking in the visual impact of hundreds of these hands, we can appreciate the power and strength of community – our community.  Diverse people, from many different neighborhoods, of many different colors, with many different stories – joining together, hand-in-hand, in a single creative endeavor.


We welcome your comments at makeadifference@refoundry.org