Hudson County Community College Celebrates Acclaimed Artist Henrietta Mantooth and Her ‘Jail Birds’ Donation to the Foundation Art Collection

March 2, 2023

Pictured here, artist Henrietta Mantooth, and one painting from the “Jail Birds” series she donated to the Hudson County Community College Foundation Permanent Art Collection.

Pictured here, artist Henrietta Mantooth, and one painting from the “Jail Birds” series she donated to the Hudson County Community College Foundation Permanent Art Collection.

March 2, 2023, Jersey City, NJ – Hudson County Community College (HCCC) will honor internationally renowned artist Henrietta Mantooth in recognition of her donation of eleven major “Jail Birds” paintings to the HCCC Foundation Permanent Art Collection. The celebration with Ms. Mantooth will take place on Friday, March 3, 2023 at 12 p.m. in the College’s Gabert Library, 71 Sip Avenue in Jersey City. The “Jail Birds” series will be exhibited, and refreshments will be served. 

Henrietta Mantooth, 98, is a humanist who uses her art and life experience to showcase systemic social issues. Drawn to art since childhood, she began painting with laundry bluing, onions, and berries, and went on to study art in France, Italy, Greece, Brazil, and New York. Ms. Mantooth worked as a journalist for 20 years, writing about civil rights and amplifying similar stories through art. Combining her skills as a visual artist, reporter, theatrical set designer, and performer, she creates large art installations and works with speakers, performers, and audience feedback. Ms. Mantooth describes her painting as “witnessing” and notes, “Painting is about bravery. For both artist and viewer.” Her work has been exhibited in galleries around the globe, including the Sao Paulo Biennial; the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo and Bahia; the Newcomb Museum in New Orleans; the Queens Museum and the Ford Foundation Gallery New York City. 

“We are very happy to welcome Ms. Mantooth to the College, and to thank her for this incredibly beautiful gift,” said HCCC President Dr. Christopher Reber. “The ‘Jail Birds’ series perfectly corresponds to the College’s commitment to social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The “Jail Birds” installation was first created in 2014 to highlight mass incarceration in the United States and was named, “Jail Birds and Flowers.” The large, almost abstract birds, prison bars and accompanying text, rendered in acrylic paint on cardboard, have since been modified and new pieces added. The artist writes, “If birds are messengers, the ‘Jail Birds’ landed here to tell the stark story of millions of Americans behind bars. These prisoners are real women, men and teenagers, assigned numbers and filed away (not safely, but out of sight) and used as cheap labor. Some have been arrested randomly and jailed when unable to pay fines. Poverty, discrimination, segregation, and the color of their skins have paved the way in this intentional system of modern slavery.”

Those interested in attending the Henrietta Mantooth celebration and viewing the “Jail Birds” exhibit are asked to contact HCCC Foundation Art Collection Coordinator, Andrea Siegel at ASiegelFREEHUDSONCOUNTYCOMMUNITYCOLLEGE or 201-360-4007.

Founded in 2006 to coincide with the initiation of the HCCC Fine Arts studies program, the Foundation Permanent Art Collection includes more than 1,825 works. These paintings, sculptures, photographs, limited edition prints, craft pottery and ephemera by highly respected artists are installed in the public areas of the College’s ten campus buildings, thereby creating an educational art museum for all to enjoy. The Collection reveals aspects of America’s and New Jersey’s rich artistic and cultural heritage from the Hudson River School period to today.

Many works have been directly donated by individuals,  estates, corporations, and other organizations. Monetary donations for art purchases are maximized by matching funds, and are also utilized for acquiring works of art, staging special events, and purchasing items such as art books for the College Library. 

To view the Foundation Art Collection using searchable tools, go to There are guides to the entire Collection and specialized guides for Contemporary Art – African Diaspora and African American Artists; Contemporary Art – Asian and Asian American Artists; Contemporary Art – Hispanic and Hispanic American Artists; Contemporary Art – Women Artists; and Commemorating 9/11 in Art.

Monetary gifts to support the Collection may be made by contacting Nicole Bouknight Johnson at 201-360-4069 or nicolebjohnsonFREEHUDSONCOUNTYCOMMUNITYCOLLEGE. Detailed information on donating artwork is available at