Theaster Gates is an American “Social Practice installation artist.” He was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he still lives and works. Gates’ work has been shown at major museums and galleries internationally and deals with issues of urban planning, religious space, and craft. He is committed to the revitalization of poor neighborhoods through combining urban planning and art practices.
Above Video: Artist Theaster Gates turns Chicago’s empty spaces into incubators for culture.
An internationally recognized artist, Theaster Gates is well versed on how to shape materials into meaningful forms. But Gates applies those principles to more than just art — he’s also a renowned urban developer who shapes downtrodden neighborhoods into community gathering places and low-cost housing. Gates joins Jeffrey Brown to explore the intersection of art and activism.
Theaster Gates is the founder and Artist Director of the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit focused on cultural-driven redevelopment and affordable space initiatives in under-resourced communities. Under Gates’ leadership, the Rebuild Foundation currently manages projects in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago. Rebuild received official 501(c)3 status in December 2010. Program sites include the Stony Island Arts Bank, the Black Cinema House, the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, Archive House, and Listening House.
For the Dorchester Projects, one of Rebuild’s Foundation’s most celebrated works, he restored vacant buildings and turned them into cultural institutions with artifacts from the South Side. Gates’s Rebuild Foundation has renovated two houses on Dorchester Avenue, now called the Archive House and the Listening House. In 2013, he purchased the Stony Island State Savings Bank from the city of Chicago. The Archive House holds 14,000 architecture books from a closed bookshop. The Listening House holds 8,000 records purchased at the closing of Dr. Wax Records. The Stony Island Savings Bank now known as the Stony Island Arts Bank contains the book collection of John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines; the record collection of Frankie Knuckles, the godfather of house music; and slides of the University of Chicago’s and Art Institute of Chicago’s collections. In 2015, his Stony Island work was included in the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Above Video: How to revive a neighborhood with imagination, beauty and art