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  1. Sunday, March 3, 2024

  2. Monday, March 4, 2024

Artist Check-in: Yasmin Spiro

21c Museum caught up with Chicago-based artist, Yasmin Spiro, who shares more about her feelings on emerging from “pandemic hibernation”, her excitement to visit home in Jamaica, and what she has learned over the past year that she can share with others.

On Wednesday, April 14 at 6pm CST artist Yasmin Sprio and art consultant, curator, and educator, Cortney Lederer will be in conversation.  This event is free. Please sign-up on our Eventbrite link to get the Zoom login information.

How are you feeling today? This week? This new year?

Yasmin Spiro (YS): I think like many folks I’m feeling like I’m emerging from pandemic hibernation; the combination of starting the vaccine process and the weather changing definitely shifts things and I’m looking forward to seeing more of family, friends and art/music/film/performance in the near future.


Are you hopeful? If you are, what is giving you a reason to be hopeful in this moment?

YS: I haven’t been home (to Jamaica) or seen my family in over a year and a half and I am so looking forward to doing that. Going home is always such an anchor for me, so to have that on the horizon is really great. It’s been an interesting year of introspection—looking at what’s really important, slowing down in some ways, and rethinking my work and certain projects that I’m excited about deepening my commitment to, and while it’s been a complicated time, I am hopeful.


What are you looking forward to doing this year in your art practice?

YS: I’m interested in expanding work that I started at the end of 2019 at the John Michael Kohler residency, that integrates mold cast ceramics with textiles. I’m looking forward to a lot more material experimentation in the studio and expanding research on vernacular architecture that is tied to concerns of environmental equity. I’m also moving forward a long-term project—Dawtas—a research, education, performance, and sculpture/installation project that activates a sculpture series I started over a decade ago with performers and music, with an exploration of Jamaican dance and theater. I’ve received funding for this and am actively working on building community and networks around this as a series of programs that both investigate and celebrate Jamaican culture. (Follow me in Instagram @yspiro to learn more about the project as it progresses!)


How can people continue to support artists in their communities?

YS: By continuing to head out (safely) to see shows, sharing work, supporting emerging artists (really at all levels), continuing to have dialogues (such as this), and really doubling down on fiscal and institutional support seems more important than ever. Also making sure that the work is approached with real intentionality in terms of equity and diversity. I’m grateful to folks like Cortney (Lederer) and Adia (Sykes) who are really just such great champions of artists. Chicago is a great space in that it has a real community of people and spaces that help build that support.


Do you have any #protips or things you have learned in the past year that you would like to share with fellow artists?

YS: I’m not sure this is a protip and is super simple—but slowing down—trusting your work and your interests, and taking the time to clarify your thoughts and intentions around work and projects is one of the gifts of the past year. It’s great to get feedback and to have folks visit your studio, but also so good to just have that space as a sanctuary and time to explore new ideas and do research. But, conversely, I’m also really looking forward to more in person talks and visits!


Artist and Curator Bios: 

Yasmin Spiro was born and grew up in in Kingston, Jamaica and currently lives and works in Chicago. Spiro’s work is multi-disciplinary, primarily based in sculpture and immersive installations, with video, drawing and performance – exploring issues of cultural identity and socio-economic issues within the framework of urban development and social politics – often through the lens of Caribbean culture.

Spiro’s work explores concepts related to architecture and urbanism, socio-economics, futuristic cities, and craft and culture. Research is often layered with personal narratives connected to both the landscape and culture of Jamaica. Much of the work is textile based connecting directly to personal history and reconstructed memories. The work also utilizes casting – plaster, ceramic, and cement – creating architectural elements that reference futurism and femininity in our built environments. Her studio practice pulls in various aspects of personal and cultural history to build stories within the work – layered with conceptual research, and material experimentation.

Spiro’s work has been shown at galleries in the US and Caribbean and she was a founding member of the tART women’s collective in NY (F2004). Her work has been covered in NewCity, Art News, Washington Times, Miami Herald and others. She attended Pratt Institute for her BFA, and MFA studies. She has held residences at the Kohler Arts and Industry program in Wisconsin, Vermont Studio Center, Chicago Artist Coalition and an upcoming residency as a Dora Maar Brown Foundation Fellow in Menerbes, France.

You can follow Yasmin on Instagram @yspiro


Cortney Lederer is an art consultant, curator, and educator with 20 years of experience managing an array of artistic programming for organizations and businesses. From 2011–14 she served as the director of exhibitions and residencies at Chicago Artists Coalition. In 2014, Lederer launched CNL Projects to provide artists and organizations with a platform to creatively produce impactful art experiences. CNL’s work is deeply centered on her unique, collaborative approach to working with artists, clients, businesses and organizations to advocate for the value of art and culture in our daily lives. As a respond to the pandemic, CNL launched ART- IN-PLACE May 2020, where 400 artists from around the world activated their homes with works of art to share with their neighbors and through a virtual platform. This collective action provided artists and community members with a sense of hope and connectivity through the experience of public art. Cortney is faculty in the Arts Administration and Policy department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and provides professional development workshops and individual consultation to artists. Most recently, she curated two site-specific installations at the Willis Tower by artists Olafur Eliasson and Jacob Hashimoto.

You can follow Courtney on Instagram @cnlprojects


Image captions:

Yasmin Spiro, Pro Rata

Glazed Porcelain

Image credit: Kohler Co., courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Yasmin Spiro, Dawtas Photo collaboration with Michelle Litvin

Yasmin Spiro, Consuelo

Yasmin Spiro

Here, Here and Here I and II,  I: Felt, nylon, boning, wood, twine, sound dome (audio) II: Felt, nylon, boning, wood, twine, peppermint oil

Yasmin Spiro, sensitive fences II – invisible lines

Felt, wood, ink, twine

Yasmin Spiro, safety wall, 2018

Felt, wood, twine


Cortney Lederer

ART-IN-PLACE (AIP) invites artists to exhibit an original work of art to be displayed outside their home or from a window visible to the public.

Cortney Lederer


In collaboration with CNL Projects, EQ Office commissioned the globally-renowned artist Olafur Eliasson’s stunning installation, Atmospheric wave wall, on the Jackson Blvd. exterior wall of Willis Tower.