In contrast to the excitement of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial’s opening weekend, artist and Chicago native Theaster Gates addressed the press in a decidedly less enthusiastic tone. “As excited as I am about the history of Chicago architecture,” he said, “we also have an amazing history of racism, segregation, [and] a history of redlining and housing covenants that work against the poor, and against black and brown people.” Gates’ contribution to the biennial, the transformation of a derelict 1923 neoclassical building into a community cultural center called the Stony Island Arts Bank, embodies the effects of redlining very succinctly.
Theaster Gates will present the 10th annual Lewis Mumford Lecture at The City College of New York on May 1. 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