Community Development

The Community Builder: Theaster Gates

June 27, 2016  • Aspen Institute Arts Program

Any city would be lucky to have an artist in its corner like 2016 Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence Theaster Gates, whose work embraces activism, cultural preservation, and community development. Since he began work on his now famed Dorchester Projects in 2009, Gates’s transformation of a once-neglected South Side neighborhood into a thriving cultural hub has yielded an enclave of buildings that offer an array of cultural programming, from gardening to youth art classes to Black Cinema. Last fall he added to that impressive collection the Stony Island Arts Bank. Located in an abandoned savings & loan building, it is home to treasures of Chicago culture and history in an archive and performance space unlike any other in the world. At this inflection point in his career, Gates spoke with Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, about where he intended to take Chicago next and the expansion of his vision around the globe.