Theaster Gates

November 21, 2016
7:00 p.m.

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

Each year The Architectural League’s Current Work series features significant international figures who powerfully influence contemporary architectural practice and shape the future of the built environment. Theaster Gates will present his work in a public lecture and conversation with architect Billie Tsien as part of the fall 2016 Current Work series.

Theaster Gates is trained in urban planning, religious studies, and fine arts. He has developed an expanded practice that includes space development, object making, performance, and critical engagement with many publics. Gates is spearheading numerous development projects in some of the most divested parts of his native Chicago, which function as an extension of his studio work. He is currently a professor in the University of Chicago’s Department of Visual Art and serves as Director of the school’s Arts + Public Life initiative, which seeks to “build creative connections on Chicago’s South Side through artist residencies, arts education, and artist-led projects and events.”

Gates formed Rebuild Foundation in 2010 as a not-for-profit engine intended to “rebuild the cultural foundation of underinvested neighborhoods” in Chicago. The foundation fulfills its mission by transforming abandoned buildings into multifaceted cultural centers to “create hubs of art and culture that inspire residents, artists, activists and leaders in Chicago’s South Side and beyond.”

Rebuild Foundation currently operates and develops public programs for Black Cinema House, Archive House, Listening House, and Stony Island Arts Bank – properties it purchased and renovated throughout Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood. These cultural centers organize ongoing exhibitions, educational programs, and provide access to “living archives” of cultural artifacts and media such as portions of the Johnson Publishing Library collection, which published Jet and Ebony magazines, and the vinyl record collection of the late Chicago House music DJ Frankie Knuckles, among other collections. The centers also offer residencies for visiting artists who interact with the Greater Grand Crossing community through workshops and programming. In 2014, the foundation established Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, a block of 32 revitalized townhomes for artists and the local community intended to foster dialogue between the two groups. Rebuild Foundation also convenes the Black Artists Retreat (B.A.R.), an annual initiative intended to “create time and space for an intergenerational community of black visual artists to engage outside of the institutional environment.”

Gates received a Bachelor of Science degree in Urban Planning and Ceramics from Iowa State University and a Master of Arts degree in Fine Arts and Religious Studies from University of Cape Town in South Africa.

He has exhibited and performed at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Fondazione Prada in Milan; Whitechapel Gallery in London; Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; and Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, among other institutions. Gates is the recent winner of Artes Mundi 6 and has also received awards and grants from Creative Time, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, United States Artists, Creative Capital, the Joyce Foundation, Graham Foundation, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and Artadia. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Billie Tsien is a co-founding principal of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners and President of the board of directors of The Architectural League of New York.

This lecture is co-sponsored by Parsons School of Constructed Environments, Parsons School of Design, and The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union. It is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.