Founders Award

A structure evoking a house stands in a body of water with trees on the shoreline in the background.
Edra Soto, Casa-Isla | House-Island, 2022. Chicago Botanic Garden. Flourish: The Garden at 50. Photo credit James Prinz.


PAD is delighted to announce that Chicago artist Edra Soto has won the 2024 PAD Founders Award for achievement in the field of public art.

Often manifested in representational form, Edra Soto’s work walks the line between visual arts, social practice, immersive installations, and architectural interventions.  She aims to challenge the boundaries between audience, artist and the work itself, prompting viewers to reconsider the nature of urban space, cross-cultural dynamics, the legacy of colonialism, and personal responsibility. Soto’s upbringing and relationships with communities in Puerto Rico and the US informs her artistic practice.

On Thursday, February 15, 6:30-8:30pm, join PAD for a discussion with Edra Soto at ENGAGE Projects Showroom. Edra Soto will be in conversation with Susan Snodgrass, a Chicago-based critic and editor. 

ENGAGE Projects Showroom
3312 West Belle Plaine Avenue
Chicago, IL, 60618


In 2022, the PAD award was renamed the PAD Founders Award in honor of the organization's co-founders Harriet F. Senie and Cher Krause Knight. The annual award honors individuals, collectives, and organizations that demonstrate longstanding commitments to cross-disciplinary and cross-community dialogue that inspired PAD's founding more than a decade ago. Awardees are chosen from nominations made by PAD members. 

Past Recipients

2023 - Socrates Sculpture Park

Socrates Sculpture Park is a community engaged New York City waterfront park dedicated to supporting artists in the production and presentation of public art. Once an illegal dumpsite, in 1986, a coalition of artists and community members led by artist Mark di Suvero transformed the land into an outdoor exhibition space. Today it has become an internationally renowned outdoor museum and a designated New York City public park spanning five waterfront acres.

2022 - Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams is a visual artist who trained as an architect at Cornell University. Her creative practice employs color as an operative means for drawing attention to the complex ways race informs how we assign value to the spaces we occupy. Read our interview with Amanda Williams.

2021 - Dread Scott

Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. His work is exhibited across the US and internationally. In 2019 he presented Slave Rebellion Reenactment, a community-engaged project that reenacted the largest rebellion of enslaved people in US history. The project was featured in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, Christiane Amanpour on CNN and highlighted by as one of the most important artworks of the decade. Read our interview with Dread Scott.

2020 - Michael Rakowitz

Michael Rakowitz is an Iraqi-American artist who currently lives and works in Chicago. Rooted in socio-politically motivated conceptual art, social practice, and relational aesthetics, his work is part of permanent collections in numerous institutions and has been exhibited worldwide. Read our interview with Michael Rakowitz.

2019 - fierce pussy

Formed in New York City in 1991 through their immersion in AIDS activism, fierce pussy brought lesbian identity and visibility directly into the streets. The collective responded to the urgency of the time, using readily available resources: old typewriters, found photographs, their own baby pictures, and the printing supplies and equipment accessible in their day jobs. fierce pussy was composed of a fluid cadre of members. Four of the original members — Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, Zoe Leonard, and Carrie Yamaoka — continue to work together. Read our interview with fierce pussy.

2018 - Judy Baca

In 1974 Judy Baca founded the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program, which evolved into the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), where she is the artistic director. Baca’s inspirational career as an artist, scholar, and activist has immeasurably impacted urban visual culture.

2017 - Mierle Laderman Ukeles

Since 1977, when Mierle Laderman Ukeles became the official, unsalaried Artist-in-Residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation – a position she still holds – she has created art that deals with the endless maintenance and service work that “keeps the city alive,” urban waste flows, recycling, ecology, urban sustainability and our power to transform degraded land and water into healthy inhabitable public places.

2016 - Kirk Savage

Kirk Savage has written extensively on public monuments within the larger theoretical context of collective memory and identity. He is the author of two prizewinning books. Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape (2009) reconsidered key public monuments and spaces of the capital within a narrative of nation building, spatial conquest, ecological destructiveness, and psychological trauma. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (1997) investigated the themes of slavery and emancipation in the monument boom that followed the U.S. Civil War. Read our interview with Kirk Savage.

2015 - Tom Finkelpearl
Tom Finkelpearl is the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. In this role he oversees city funding for nonprofit arts organizations across the five boroughs and directs the cultural policy for the City of New York. Prior to his appointment by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Commissioner Finkelpearl served as Executive Director of the Queens Museum for twelve years starting in 2002, overseeing an expansion that doubled the museum’s size and positioning the organization as a vibrant center for social engagement in nearby communities.
2014 - Jack Becker

PAD recognizes Jack Becker's longstanding contributions to the field of public art as founder and executive director of Forecast Public Art, established in 1978. As a public artist and program administrator, Jack specializes in projects that connect the ideas and energies of artists with the needs and opportunities of communities. He has organized more than 70 exhibitions, 50 publications, and numerous special events. Read our interview with Jack Becker.

2013 - Penny Balkin Bach

Penny Balkin Bach is Executive Director of the Association for Public Art (formerly Fairmount Park Art Association), the nation's first private non-profit public art organization, chartered in 1872. As a curator, writer, and educator, Bach provides artistic direction for the organization. She works with artists, architects, civic leaders, city agencies, community groups and cultural organizations, and has written extensively about public art and the environment. Read our interview with Penny Balkin Bach.

2012 - Ben Rubin
Ben Rubin is a media artist based in New York City. His work features in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; the San Jose Museum of Art; and the Science Museum, London, and has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum in New York; the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid; the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris, and the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe. Rubin has created large-scale public artworks for the New York Times, the City of San José, and the Minneapolis Public Library.
2011 - Anne Pasternak
Creative Time began commissioning innovative art in New York City in 1972, introducing millions of people every year to contemporary art while making sure it plays an active role in public life. In 1994, Anne Pasternak joined Creative Time as its President and Artistic Director. Her goal has been to present some of the most adventurous and historically important art in the public realm.
2010 - Mary Jane Jacob
Mary Jane Jacob is a curator who holds the position of Professor in the Department of Sculpture and Executive Director of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As chief curator of the Museums of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Los Angeles, she staged some of the first U.S. shows of American and European artists.
2009 - Suzanne Lacy
Suzanne Lacy is an internationally known artist whose work includes installations, video, and large-scale performances. Often investigating social themes, public policy, and urban issues, one of Lacy’s best known works to date is The Crystal Quilt (Minneapolis, 1987) a performance featuring 430 older women, broadcast live on Public Television. During the nineties she worked with teams of artists and youth to create an ambitious series of performances, workshops, and installations.