Historic site to return to daily tour schedule, install new art, expand cornerstone exhibit
April 6, 2022
Eastern State Penitentiary will launch its 2022 season this spring with expanded hours and several additions to the historic site’s programming.
Starting May 2, 2022, Eastern State Penitentiary will once again offer daytime tours seven days a week, all year round. The historic site’s popular evening program Night Tours: Summer Twilight will also return this year on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings from May 6 to September 4, 2022.
Eastern State Penitentiary will debut a new artist installation—Mark Menjivar’s DLP Mirror—in the site’s historic Death Row and will introduce new audio tour content recorded by actor Steve Buscemi. Both of these additions debut on May 6, 2022. Later this summer, the historic site will add a column representing 2020 incarceration rates to its cornerstone exhibit The Big Graph, which highlights the skyrocketing incarceration rate in America over time.
Open Seven Days a Week Beginning May 2, 2022
Starting on May 2, 2022, Eastern State Penitentiary will be open for daytime tours every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with final entry at 4:00 p.m. This marks the first time the historic site will operate seven days a week since the COVID-19 pandemic forced nationwide closures of museums and attractions, including Eastern State Penitentiary, in March 2020.
Eastern State Penitentiary is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Tickets are available online at www.EasternState.org or at the door subject to availability. Admission is free for Eastern State members.
Night Tours: Summer Twilight Returns Thursday through Sunday evenings, May 6 – September 4
Night Tours: Summer Twilight, a new evening program that debuted in the spring of 2021, will return with expanded operating hours: Thursday through Sunday evenings from May 6 through September 4. Visitors can experience Eastern State's historic cellblocks as the sun goes down, enjoy a Triple Bottom Brewing Company beer, soft drink, or snack in The Fair Chance Beer Garden, and reflect on Eastern State's history and legacy of criminal justice reform through hands-on activities like trivia, letter-writing, and art.
Tickets are available online at www.EasternState.org or at the door subject to availability. Admission is free for Eastern State members.
New Artist Installation Debuts May 6, 2022: DLP Mirror by Mark Menjivar
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site will debut a new site-specific artist installation on May 6. DLP Mirror, created by San Antonio based artist Mark Menjivar, will explore the story of David Lee Powell and the musical score that Powell composed while incarcerated on death row in Texas.
During his incarceration, Powell, who was once an honor student at the University of Texas, composed a variation of an 18th century musical score, an incredible feat for someone with no access to instruments or any musical training. The music was played in the courtroom during his trial and resurfaced after Powell’s execution, when the contents of his cell were donated by his friends to the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP).
Artist Mark Menjivar will transform Powell’s composition into a multimedia installation that will be located inside Eastern State Penitentiary’s Cellblock 15, also called Death Row. Visitors to the historic site will hear Powell’s music from multiple speakers situated throughout the cellblock as they view a series of prints, including Powell’s original handwritten score. The sheet music will also be available for visitors to take home with them, so that they may play and share the piece with others.
David Lee Powell was executed in 2010 after serving 32 years on death row for the murder of police officer Ralph Ablenado. Powell had graduated high school as valedictorian at 16 years old, but soon faced severe mental health issues. He was addicted to methamphetamine at the time of the murder.
Along with DLP Mirror, Eastern State Penitentiary will host 13 returning artist installations in 2022. Artist installations are included with standard admission.
New Audio Tour Content Recorded by Actor Steve Buscemi Debuts May 6, 2022
This spring, “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour will be reformatted and updated with brand-new narration by actor Steve Buscemi. The new audio tour content will debut on May 6, 2022.
This self-guided tour features the real voices of former wardens, guards, and people incarcerated at Eastern State Penitentiary with narration by actor Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire, Fargo, Armageddon).
“It's been 18 years since I recorded the original ‘Voices of Eastern State’ Audio Tour. I'm proud that it's remained so popular with visitors for all these years,” Buscemi says. “Eastern State has expanded its mission since we recorded the original, however, and now audiences are invited to reflect on today's policies of mass incarceration as a critical part of their visit. I was happy to get back into the studio to update the audio tour and advance this important work.”
New Column To Be Added to The Big Graph Summer 2022 (Date TBA)
Located on the penitentiary’s historic baseball field, The Big Graph illustrates the unprecedented growth in the United States’ incarceration rate since 1970 in three-dimensional form. The columns on the graph represent the rate of incarceration in America from 1970, when Eastern State Penitentiary closed, to 2010. This summer, a new column will be added to The Big Graph representing the United States’ 2020 rate of incarceration. While this number has declined since 2010—the most recent year currently represented on The Big Graph—changes have been marginal. The United States continues to lead the world, by far, in percentage of citizens in prisons and jails.
About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site:
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long-abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.
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 held approximately 80,000 people during its 142 years of operation, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is open for tours year-round. Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; award-winning exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.
In recent years, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Exhibitions award by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the nation’s highest award in exhibition development and design, for its exhibit Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, as well as the Institutional Award for Special Achievement from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and the Trustee Emeritus Award for Stewardship from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Returning Citizens Tour Guide Project, which hires people who were formerly incarcerated to lead tours of the historic site, has won the EdCom Award for Innovation in Museum Education by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and has been featured internationally by such networks as the BBC and others. For more information, visit www.EasternState.org.
Artist installations are made possible in part by revenue from Eastern State’s Halloween fundraiser, Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary.
Eastern State also receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
Marketing support is financed in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development.