Monday, May 02, 2016

TRANSFORMATION - Theaster Gates in Chicago

"Artist Theaster Gates turns Chicago’s empty spaces into incubators for culture" PBS NewsHour 4/26/2016


SUMMARY:  An internationally recognized artist, Theaster Gates is well versed on how to shape materials into meaningful forms.  But Gates applies those principles to more than just art -- he’s also a renowned urban developer who shapes downtrodden neighborhoods into community gathering places and low-cost housing.  Gates joins Jeffrey Brown to explore the intersection of art and activism.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  So, what is this?

THEASTER GATES, Artist:  So, this is the ceramics studio.

JEFFREY BROWN:  When you make a pot, the artist Theaster Gates told me recently in his studio, you think about the material and how to shape it.

THEASTER GATES:  If it’s clay, then I have to learn a lot about the minerals that are in the earth.  And what happens when two chemicals work together in relationship to heat?  How does heat work in relationship to time?

JEFFREY BROWN:  But, unlike most artists, Gates goes further, into a whole other realm.  Just as we learn to reshape clay into pots, he says, we might learn to reshape buildings and neighborhoods into a revitalized urban life.

THEASTER GATES:  If you were to apply that to a city, you would say, what’s the relationship between a commercial district and a residential area?  And how might those things be a collision at first?  But they need to slowly cool.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Same processes, but different material?

THEASTER GATES:  I think so, in that it implies that one has to also continue to get to know a thing by being directly engaged with the thing.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Gates is a successful commercial artist on the international gallery scene.  But much of the focus of his work is here, on Chicago’s South Side, in neighborhoods filled with vacant lots, abandoned buildings, poor and dangerous streets.

Gates has bought buildings, like these on Dorchester Avenue, refurbished and turned them into community gathering places for music, films, talk.  He’s also developed low-cost housing, including for artists, who contribute hours of community service in return.

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