The Cook County Department of Corrections, sitting on ninety-six acres on the West Side, is one of the nation’s largest single site pre-detention facilities. The independent, grassroots, social justice organization 96ACRES is seeking artistic projects to generate what they call “alternative narratives reflecting on power and responsibility by presenting insightful and informed collective responses for the transformation of a space that occupied 96 acres, but has a much larger social footprint.” Projects may include visual art, audio pieces, performance, new media works, writing, photography, design, prints and installation with particular interest to works at the site of the jail in an allocated space along its north exterior wall. Proposals are due July 28, and approved projects would be realized this fall. Base grants of $2,500 or up to $5,000 are available, funded by the Chicago Community Trust, Special Service Area #25, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Field Foundation of Illinois.
Many of 96ACRES’ previous projects have been made with their supporter Vocalo 90.7, a local public media station. Maria Gaspar’s radio program “Cook County Jail: The Visible and Invisible” uses a documentary approach common to many of the projects and gathered personal accounts and stories from the Little Village community that directly adjoins the jail. In another project, artist Matthew Silva distributed screen-printed stickers that depicted his cousin being shot, placing many of them on the sidewalks of Little Village. Not all projects have to be on site though, as in April Gaspar and 96ACRES staged a series of performances and interventions through the Museum of Contemporary Art. In all of their work, the organization welcomes delving into issues of race and class that are so disproportionately affected by prison systems. More details about the proposals and projects being sought are available here. (Matt Morris)