This Saturday, August 15, from 1 to 3 PM, artist and designer Landon Brown and the advocacy organization 96 Acres invite drivers with black, brown, or white automobiles to participate in Park, a large-scale public art project, by parking their cars on South Sacramento, adjacent to Cook County Jail, the largest county jail in the U.S. Ideally, the vehicles will occupy half a mile of public street parking. During these two hours, the drivers will tune their car radios to a Vocalo (90.7 FM) broadcast of B.B. King’s 1971 album Live in Cook County Jail. King’s performance for 2,000 inmates was a political experiment implemented by Winston Moore, a psychologist serving as the prison’s warden at the time, who believed cultural events could inspire changes in prisoners’ behavior.
Brown’s background in design and architecture play a central role in this project. “A designer’s skill often stems from their ability to call upon visual and spatial tools to confront scales and challenges that at first appear too fraught or intractable to manage in any rational way,” he explains. Brown hopes Park will bring “a certain coherence and sense of shared stakes to the complex issue of incarceration.” He notes in a video he made about the project that 66 percent of inmates are people of color; 50 percent of inmates are from the neighborhood surrounding the jail, and 90 percent are awaiting trial.
“We want to make something that is compelling, and ask for empathy from the Chicago’s west-side residents,” explains Maria Gaspar, an artist and director of 96 Acres. Park, she says, is a “poetic statement” that its creators hope will reconnect the west side with other neighborhoods, engaging people from all around Chicago.