96 Acres Project is a series of community-engaged, site-responsive art projects that address the impact of the Cook County Jail on Chicago’s West Side. The projects aim to generate alternative narratives reflecting on power, and to present creative projects that reflect the community’s vision of transformation.
96 Acres Project is a series of community-engaged, site-responsive art projects that involve community stakeholders’ ideas about social and restorative justice issues, and that examine the impact of incarceration at the Cook County Jail on Chicago’s West Side. 96 Acres uses multi-disciplinary art practices to explore the social and political implications of incarceration on communities of color. Through creative processes and a diverse steering committee, 96 Acres Projects aims to generate alternative narratives reflecting on art, power, and responsibility by presenting insightful and informed collective responses for the transformation of a space that occupies 96 acres, but has a much larger reaching outcome.
The 96 Acres Project was begun in 2012 by artist and Little Village native Maria Gaspar with fiscal support from The Chicago Public Art Group and production support from Enlace Chicago. Through the generous funding of Local SSA #25, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Field Foundation, and the Chicago Community Trust between 2012 and 2016, 96 Acres Project was able to support creative and interdisciplinary projects at and around the jail by many artists and community members across the city and country. Contributors proposed site-responsive art projects through a community-engaged review process via a community advisory committee. An advisory group of community stakeholders, which includes educators, activists, artists, violence preventions workers, community leaders, the formerly incarcerated, youth, and parents was established to engage in a critical dialogue, support the artistic vision and projects, and sustain community accountability. Currently, the project has a steady group of twenty supporters that are committed to social change, community engagement, and working against mass incarceration. Core Steering Committee Members include and have included: Simone Alexander, Hugo Antunez, Bobby Biedrzycki, Paulina Camacho, Anderson Chavez, Amanda Cortes, Jaime de Leon, Dahriian Espinoza, Silvia I. Gonzalez, Miguel Guevara, Cuitlahuac Heredia, Michael Johnson (MJ), Sandra Lopez, Nicole Marroquin, Susan Mullen, Michael de Anda Muñiz, Patricia Nguyen, Katya Nuques, Jon Pounds, Elena Quintana, Jesus Salazar, Ernest Sanders, Jackie Serrato, Victor Sorrel, Juliana Stratton, Luis Tubens. Over time, a group of radical teachers began developing curriculum based on the artistic projects which are currently in development. The 96 Acres Project is proud of the many contributors that have engaged in a meaningful and critically-driven artistic and community process, where we are constantly learning and relearning, framing and reframing, pushing and uplifting through art and people power.
We thank all of the site-responsive project contributors in alphabetical order: Letters Home by Susan Mullen, Claudia Rangel, Hector Duarte, and Melissa Garcia, Making Directions by Damon Reed, Not Just Another Day by Yollocalli Arts Reach, Park by Landon Brown, Portraits of Resolution by William Estrada, Anthony Rea, and Erica Brooks, The Princess Who Went Quiet by Bianca Diaz and Mariame Kaba of Project NIA, The Visibility Project by the Visible Voices Ensemble with Bobby Biedrzycki and The Goodman Theatre. Please see documentation of each project on our Vimeo or social media platforms.