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Kirsten Leenaars awarded Artist Response Grant ($100,000) by the City of Chicago

Present Tense, 3-channel video installation, 2019, video stills

Leenaars received one of the Artist Response direct grants ($100,000) from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events to develop and produce a video project with the restorative justice organization Circles & Ciphers in Chicago.

About the grant:

Through its new Artist Response Program, DCASE has awarded five artists and artist teams $100,000 grants. The City of Chicago is facing a critical moment in its history as the COVID-19 pandemic amplifies systemic racism and the history of disinvestment on the South and West sides of the city and presents an opportunity to rebuild towards equity. Recognizing that artists have always played an important role in advancing the causes of justice and equity, DCASE seeks to support artists in developing projects that engage the public in a constructive, civic dialogue that will propel our collective action, facilitate progress, and make Chicago a model city for the nation as it faces the difficult work ahead.

About the video project Beyond the Box: Reimagining Freedom:

What does collective freedom look, sound, and feel like? This question and its political stakes will guide our second collaborative multimedia project. Through the creation of performative actions, through rhyme and rap in parks and abandoned lots in the Rogers Park neighborhood we will activate these spaces as sites for our own radical imagination and as sites for healing, joy and community. We invite the young people that are part of Circles & Ciphers, as well those who are currently incarcerated, to respond to the notion of collective freedom based on their personal experiences, including considering the ways Covid-19 and the prison industrial complex have impacted their lives and communities. The produced videos and performances will serve as interventions in public space.


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