Theaster Gates: the art of rebuilding community
// By Jacqueline Brennan
Theaster Gates – an internationally renowned artist, academic, and urban planner – creates works that engage with space theory and land development, sculpture and performance. Known for his recirculation of art-world capital, Gates upturns art values, land values, and human values.
In all aspects of his work, he contends with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise – one defined by collective desire, artistic agency, and the tactics of a pragmatist. Drawing on his interest and training in urban planning and preservation, Gates redeems spaces that have been left behind focusing on the possibility of the “life within things.”
He is Founder and Executive Director of Rebuild Foundation, a platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation that is informed by three core values: black people matter, black spaces matter, and black objects matter. Rebuild’s projects support artists and strengthen communities by providing free arts programming, creating new cultural amenities, and developing affordable housing, studio, and live work space.
Gates is reinvigorating neighborhoods within Chicago’s South Side through local collaborations and innovative, artistic takes on traditional community footholds – with projects such as the Stony Island Arts Bank, Archive House, Listening House, Dorchester Art and Housing Collaborative, BING Art Books, and a newly unveiled DJ Booth in the CTA 95th Street Redline Station.
You can sign up for the Chicago Inside & Out tour of Greater Grand Crossing and experience firsthand the reawakening of this South Side neighborhood and meet some of the local creatives involved in this fresh new approach to community transformation.
In addition to many amazing list accomplishments, Gates serves as Director of Artists Initiatives and Distinguished Visiting Artist at the Lunder Institute for American Art at Colby College and the 2017/2018 Artist-in-Residence at the Getty Research Institute. He was the winner of the Artes Mundi 6 prize and a recipient of the Légion d’Honneur in 2017. He was awarded the Nasher Prize for Sculpture 2018, as well as the Urban Land Institute, J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development.
How fortunate are we to have Theaster Gates join us – up close and personal on the Main Stage at Upswell Chicago – awakening our minds to the powerful transformation changemakers can spark in communities nationwide by imagining what can be.
More on Theaster Gates:
- How Theaster Gates Has Changed Chicago, Wall Street Journal Magazine (2019)
- Prada needed help dodging racial missteps. It called in Theaster Gates., Crain’s Chicago Business (2019)
- Four Foundations Team Up to Buy the Historic Archives of ‘Ebony’ Magazine for $30 Million in a Bankruptcy Sale, ArtNet (2019)
- Can Artist Theaster Gates Help Bridge a Town-Gown Divide?, City Lab (2019)
- To Theaster Gates, Art and Redevelopment Are One and The Same, Forbes (2018)
- Theaster Gates is a Toast of the Fashion and Art Circuit, New York Times (2018)
- The Artist Next Door, The Wall Street Journal (2012)