Jenny Polak

I use familiar materials to make public and community engaged art, drawings, structures and commemorative objects. My studies in architecture and planning, family history of migration, and collaborations with directly impacted community members drive projects about prison abolition, domestic space and community empowerment in the face of hostile authorities.

With ink, building materials, upcycled fabrics and slipcast ceramics, my site-responsive installations and objects connect struggles for justice to domestic dreams: of homes, sharing skills and overcoming barriers. Since 2020, and now with a Creatives Rebuild NY grant, I’ve been working with members of the Fortune Society – people who are rebuilding lives after incarceration – to develop collaborative artworks. I want this art to provoke a desire to resist expanding prisons and border violence and the fear-mongering fueling them. My art activates sites where it is seen – whether in homes, galleries or out in public – and lifts up the vision of contributors.

Jenny Polak’s studies in architecture fuel her large-scale interventions in public space as well as intimate subversions of domestic design, which seek to highlight and transform unequal social relations. Her art has been exhibited widely and she has created site-responsive, community engaged projects for Socrates Sculpture Park, the Center for Arts and Public Life, Chicago, Griffiss International Sculpture Garden in Rome NY, Exit Art and The Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Polak comes from England and has degrees in Architecture (Cambridge University,) Art (St. Martins School of Art, London) and an MFA (School of Visual Arts) and was a fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program. Her work has been discussed in the New York Times, Hyperallergic, The Art Newspaper, and Brooklyn Rail and has won support from Creatives Rebuild NY, BRIC, Villa Albertine, NYFA, the Graham Foundation, Franklin Furnace, and residencies including Camargo Foundation, Northwestern University, Newark Museum, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

The LES Studio Program is supported in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.