Theaster Gates is a performance artist, potter, object maker, educator, urban planner, and innovator, and he has become a catalyst for renewal on Chicago’s South Side by putting his background to use in a unique way. His Dorchester Projects transformed abandoned houses into small cultural centers. He partnered with the University of Chicago, where he is a lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts, to create the Arts Incubator for artists-in-residence in a neglected building. And he’s now working on transforming the long-vacant, former Stony Island State Savings Bank into a cultural center and archive housing the collection of John H. Johnson, the founder of Ebony and Jet magazines.
RECORD talked with Gates in Detroit, where he participated in the second annual Culture Lab Detroit, a conference that engages design and entrepreneurial talent to bring awareness to and stimulate development in the Motor City. On May 1, Gates will present the 10th annual Lewis Mumford Lecture at The City College of New York.