Pioneer Works

center for research and experimentation in contemporary culture
Glass case

Grantee Cohort Spring 2021

Location Brooklyn, New York

Founded in 2012 by artist Dustin Yellin, Pioneer Works is a non-profit cultural center located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Approaching its 10-year anniversary, Pioneer Works has become a new model for cultural organizations and a cornerstone of contemporary art and community in Brooklyn. Pioneer Works enables artists to bear witness to the injustices of our criminal justice system, elevate the voices of people enmeshed in it and imagine alternatives to mass incarceration through exhibitions, public programs, workshops and classes.

Through its partnership with Art for Justice, Pioneer Works will develop two public artworks — “The Forever Museum Archive Circa 6000BCE” by Onyedika Chuke and “Kalief Browder: The Box” by Coby Kennedy. The exhibitions will draw together the historical origins and contemporary realities of the United States’ criminal justice system.

Chuke’s exhibition will become the nexus for a robust series aimed at deepening public awareness of the carceral and legislative policies that disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities. Shaped by the artist’s ongoing research and experience as an artist-in-residence at Rikers Island, these programs will invite the audience into interactive readings, meditations and discussions on the origins and continuing traumas of mass incarceration. Most importantly, the series will engage with local non-profits and arts organizations that work with youth and young adults who have been directly affected by the carceral system.

Pioneer Works will also partner with For Freedoms to reimagine the quartet of freedoms — of speech, of worship, from want and from fear — that Franklin D. Roosevelt first spelled out to the nation during a 1941 wartime speech. Taking this as a point of inspiration, the artist collective has posed a new quartet of public ideals that respond to the urgent needs of our contemporary era: Awakening, Listening, Healing and Justice. These will frame the topics of discussion during a four-part series of town hall discussions, during which a dynamic group of artists, scholars, legal experts and activists will cross-pollinate their visions for a more equitable justice system in the United States.