Please join us at ArtYard this Saturday, October 19th, 7:30 pm for an evening of art as social, transformative practice, featuring a screening of Radioactive: Stories Beyond the Wall, followed by an audience Q & A with Maria Gaspar and facilitated by Bennington professor, Vanessa Lyon, PhD.

The United States has the largest known incarceration population in the world.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.

“Mass Incarceration is but one symptom of systemic oppression.”  -Maria Gaspar

Photo from Radioactive: Stories Beyond the Wall.

Social practice-artist and educator Maria Gaspar responded to the severe injustice and racism of the U.S Criminal Justice system by leading workshops with incarcerated men at the Cook County Department of Corrections in Chicago, the largest single-site jail in the United States and located a few blocks away from where Gaspar grew up. Through collaborations in drawings and audio recordings in response to the question: “what would the jail say if it could speak?” Maria and the inmates “imagined the jail as a massive amplification device,” resulting in Radioactive: Stories Beyond the Wall. With its debut in September 2018, as a large-scale public art event, Radioactive translated past and current detained individuals’ stories into audio and animation, which were projected on to the north-end wall of Cook County Jail.

In Maria’s own words: “to better understand these detainees’ experiences makes a different mode of caring possible.” ArtYard is honored to host an interdisciplinary social-practice artist who champions expression through communal engagement, and exhibits the transformational power of art as means towards radical care.


Maria Gaspar is an interdisciplinary artist whose work addresses issues of spatial justice in order to amplify, mobilize, or divert structures of power through individual and collective gestures. Through installation, sculpture, sound, and performance, Gaspar’s practice situates itself within historically marginalized sites and spans multiple formats, scales, and durations to produce liberatory actions. Gaspar’s projects have been supported by the Art for Justice Fund, the Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship, the Creative Capital Award, the Joan Mitchell Emerging Artist Grant, and the Art Matters Foundation. Maria has received the Sor Juana Women of Achievement Award in Art and Activism from the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Chamberlain Award for Social Practice from the Headlands Center for the Arts.


J. Vanessa Lyon, (PhD, UC Berkeley) teaches early modern art with an emphasis on gender, race, historiography, and post/colonial relationships in Spanish, Flemish, and British visual representation (circa 1400–1800) at Bennington College. Selected publications include: “Full of Grace: Lactation, Expression and Colorito in some Early Works by Rubens” (in Medieval and Renaissance Lactations, J. Sperling, ed. Ashgate, 2013), and “‘A Relic from the Cave of Pope’: Drawings of the Grotto in an Extra-Illustrated Plan of Pope’s Garden in the Huntington Library” (Huntington Library Quarterly, June, 2015).

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