Episode 14: Maria Gaspar

(un)making

Episode 14: Maria Gaspar

By Weston Teruya August 11, 2017

Weston Teruya welcomes artists, arts administrators, and cultural workers of color to get real about their lives, practices, and careers. Each episode is an in-depth look into how art gets made, but more importantly how these folks are seeing to the system of art’s (UN)making.


In this episode we talk with Chicago-based transdisciplinary artist and community organizer, Maria Gaspar. Through performance, audio, installation, and educational projects, Maria investigates the complications of geography, power, and neighborhood storytelling. Her community engaged projects create spaces for collective action, care, and a means to reimagine our relationships to the landscapes in which we live. During her time in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts, we had a chance to discuss the lessons she learned from her mother about the importance of absurdity and joy, focusing on the impact of Cook County Jail on her neighborhood in Chicago, building connections to local advocates for community projects, and learning how to grant herself permission to work in modes authentic to her interests and history.

You can follow Maria’s work at mariagaspar.com. The two long-term projects she has launched can be found at 96acres.org and cityassite.wordpress.com. Her upcoming public audio and storytelling project, Sounds for Liberation, will launch in October 2017 in New Haven, Connecticut in the neighborhoods surrounding the Goffe St. Armory and New Haven Correctional Facility as part of Artspace’s City Wide Open Studios.

Image: Maria Gaspar. Not Just Another Day, 96 Acres Project, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist.

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Maria Gaspar is the founder of large-scale art projects City As Site (2010), and The 96 Acres Project (2012-Present), which examines the impact of incarceration through artistic interventions at the Cook County Jail located in her native community in Chicago. Gaspar’s work has been featured at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY; Artspace, New Haven, CT; African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA; and the Alpineum Produzentengalerie in Luzern, Switzerland. Gaspar is the recipient of a Creative Capital Award, a Joan Mitchell Emerging Artist Grant, a Robert Rauschenberg Artist As Activist Fellowship, and a Sor Juana Women of Achievement Award in Art and Activism from the National Museum of Mexican Art. She has been a resident at Project Row Houses in Houston, TX and was recently the Chamberlain Award resident at the Headlands Center for the Arts. She is an Assistant Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Gaspar holds an MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.

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