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Theaster Gates Is Opening A South Side Arts Center In A Building Purchased For $1

By Justin Freeman in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 14, 2015 1:41PM

Theaster Gates, photo via MPC

The acclaimed local artist Theaster Gates is soon opening an arts center in the former 17,000 square foot Stony Island Trust & Savings Bank building on Stony Island between 67th and 68th streets. Art News reported that it will be called the Stony Island Arts Bank and will open to the public on Oct. 3.

The Stony Island Trust & Savings Bank building has been in a state of disrepair since the '70s and Gates purchased from the city for $1 in 2012.

“When [Gates] acquired the building, it was much more about preserving this emblem of the middle-class black community in these neighborhoods—this symbol of the middle class and the Great Migration of the African American community that grew in these neighborhoods,” Ken Stewart, the CEO of Rebuild which is Gates’ nonprofit organization to rebuild decaying neighborhoods, told Art News. Several years and repairs later, the Stony Island Arts Bank is on the verge of its birth.

The Stony Island Arts Bank will house several libraries, including a Frankie Knuckles’ collection of vinyl records and the archive of Johnson Publishing, which is best known for publishing black-centric magazines that have been printed here in Chicago for decades such as Ebony and Jet. Jet magazine recently went digital only. The library will also house a collection of what Gates is terming “negrobilia,” racist objects purchased to remove them from commercial circulation.

The Stony Island Arts Bank will allow artists and academic scholars to work with their collections. “The residencies that we’ll be having will be to support the artists and academics whose work we’re interested in and want to support, but also to ask them to help us re-imagine these things that we think have great cultural significance and get them back into cultural circulation,” Stewart told Art News before continuing that “If you’re an artist on the South Side, there are few opportunities to get support for your practice.”

Back in 2013, we interviewed Theaster Gates about 13th Ballad, his then new exhibition at the MCA. Currently, Gates is a professor at University of Chicago in the Department of Visual Art while serving as the director of Arts + Public Life.