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Artist Theaster Gates Will Helm 3 Bold New Redevelopment Projects

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 8, 2016 6:55PM

Theaster Gates, photo via MPC

Artist/community builder Theaster Gates is partnering with a host of local organizations and arts foundations to expand even further the kind of neighborhood development he helped pioneer with his Rebuild Foundation on the South Side. Gates will take part with Chicago Arts + Industry Commons to develop three new sites with the assistance of a $5 million grant from the national Reimagine the Civic Commons initiative, plus an extra $5.25 million in local funds.

Much like Stony Island Arts Bank, a former savings and loan building that was rebuilt into a multi-faceted art center, the three new projects seeks to transform vacant or neglected properties into amenities like education centers, artist housing, beautified landscapes and design studios.

The now-vacant, 40,000-square foot St. Laurence Elementary School will be remade into a “maker space” with an educational emphasis. The revamped site will include studio space, arts training and nearby housing. The second project, Kenwood Gardens, will see 13 empty lots re-landscaped to include community gardening, training, food production, violence-prevention actions and more. The last announced project focuses on the West Side: in partnership with the Chicago Park District, the Garfield Park Industrial Arts will convert a dozen old stables and a onetime powerhouse into “a center for industrial arts fabrication and training.”

“We have spent the last 10 years developing a network of platforms, skilled people and facilities that would allow us to turn the city's perceived deficits into assets," said Gates in a press release. "With support from Reimagining the Civic Commons, the CAIC will employ local residents, renovate multiple buildings into new cultural hubs and create new revenue and job opportunities in some of Chicago’s most disinvested communities.”

The projects are expected to take about three years to complete. Similar initiatives were announced in three Rust Belt cities: Akron, Detroit and Memphis. Not to sound like a PBS kicker, but funding was provided by The JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Check out renderings below. If you've ever been to Stony Island Arts Bank, Black Cinema House or any of Gates' other similarly-minded works, these things tend to turn out pretty impressive.

[HT DNAinfo, City Lab]

Courtesy Civic Commons

Courtesy Civic Commons

Courtesy Civic Commons