|2012||Maria Gaspar (Founder and Director)|
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“The project is not about putting a band-aid on a place like the jail, but rather creating experiences that allow people to re-imagine alternatives to incarceration and to question the institution at a larger scale. What does it mean that the largest architecture of your neighborhood is a jail?”
Maria Gaspar, author
Cook County Jail is the largest single-site jail in the United States, occupying 96 acres of land—more than eight city blocks—next to Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. It admits approximately 100,000 pre-trial detainees each year, with an average daily population of 9,000; more than half of these inmates come from the residential areas surrounding the facility. The jail’s 25-foot-tall northern wall directly faces a row of single-family homes.
In 2012, Chicago-based artist and Little Village native Maria Gaspar began the 96 Acres Project: “a series of community-engaged, site-responsive art projects that address the impact of the Cook County Jail on Chicago’s West Side.” 96 Acres’ artworks and events gather together artists, educators, activists, formerly and currently incarcerated people, youth, and jail administrators in conversations about space, power, change, and community. The project has taken many forms, including zine-making workshops, an oral history archive, videos projected on the jail wall, and public sound installations. It uses digital technologies to amplify community-based practices, create collective artworks, and reclaim and reimagine the oppressive spatial narrative represented by the jail.
Contributing artists: Susan Mullen, Claudia Rangel, Hector Duarte, and Melissa Garcia (Letters Home); Damon Reed (Making Corrections); Yollocalli Arts Reach (Not Just Another Day); Landon Brown (PARK); William Estrada, Anthony Rea, and Erica Brooks (Portraits of Resolution); Bianca Diaz and Mariame Kaba of Project NIA (The Princess Who Went Quiet); the Visible Voices Ensemble with Bobby Biedrzycki and The Goodman Theatre (The Visibility Project).