Awardee: Maria Gaspar

Visual Arts, 2015

Born in Chicago, Maria Gaspar is an interdisciplinary artist and educator. Her artistic practice negotiates matters of geography, power, spatial justice through installation, sculpture, audio, performance, and community engagement. Gaspar has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Alpinaeum Produzentengalerie, Switzerland; Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, MI; Artspace, New Haven; Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC; The National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, amongst many others. Her collective practice includes founding and directing large-scale projects, such as City As Site and 96 Acres, a series of community-engaged site responsive actions that negotiate the Cook County Jail's impact on the west side of Chicago through participatory installations and performance. Gaspar was featured in the Chicago Tribune as the 2014 “Chicagoan of the Year” in the Visual Arts, granted prestigious awards from the Creative Capital Foundation, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Art Matters, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and awarded residencies at Project Row Houses in Houston and the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago. She is an Assistant Professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Gaspar received her MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.


The Cook County Jail is one of largest pre-detention facilities in the country, housing over 10,000 detainees daily and over 100,000 per year. Located at 26th street and California in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago (the artist’s native community), the jail is for some residents of the community an obtrusive reminder of incarceration, while altogether overlooked and strangely invisible to others. RADIOACTIVE will create a public, visual and sonic space that draws from those affected by incarceration to create narratives that counter preconceived notions of incarceration and provoke discussions around systems of power and their psychosocial geography. Audio will also be made available through an online archive, radio and other exhibition spaces.