Theaster Gates: How to revive a neighborhood: with imagination, beauty and art
Theaster Gates - Artist, potter, community builder
Theaster Gates is a potter whose ambitions stretch far beyond the wheel and the kiln. In Chicago, his leadership of artist-led spaces has catalyzed interest and excitement in a formerly neglected neighborhood, as he uses culture as a transformational weapon. Full bio
excites me in my artistic practice
how to make great things out of nothing;
with mounds of clay trying stuff;
of my capacity, my ability,
a really nice bowl
has been very, very helpful to my life.
how to shape the world.
in my artistic capacity
the history of the world
from that content?
discontinued firehoses from Alabama,
of civil rights in the '60s?
and I doing labor projects?
he owned small businesses,
and his tar kettle was my inheritance.
like much of an inheritance. It wasn't.
a lot of space in my studio,
to make some art with me,
of nothing material
and my dad's skill,
just like clay, in a new way,
helping us to imagine what was possible?
to lots of different kinds of materials,
because I thought, well,
it's about our capacity to shape things.
were happening just outside my studio.
I live in Chicago.
I'm a West Sider.
that won't mean anything,
that I was a West Sider,
in the city that would be very upset.
is Grand Crossing.
that has seen better days.
in my neighborhood,
making pots and busy making art
that was happening
failing housing markets
with some of our cities more than others,
U.S. cities and beyond
no longer know what to do anything with.
that I could start to think
or an expansion of my artistic practice?
along with other creatives --
real estate finance people --
to kind of think
about the reshaping of cities.
to try to just get some activity happening
for about 18,000 dollars,
as a kind of performance.
and people would come over,
and sweeping was free.
to stage exhibitions, small dinners,
on my block, Dorchester --
as Dorchester projects --
became a kind of gathering site
what we called now the Archive House.
all of these amazing things.
in the city and beyond
in the middle of the hood.
between my history with clay
starting to develop,
the South Side of the city.
a beautiful vessel important,
in those buildings is also very important.
that could happen
between one neighbor and another.
the Listening House,
that was going out of business.
these buildings as much as I could
amazing building stock.
the former crack house on the block,
imagine what else could happen there.
what we call Black Cinema House.
in the hood to screen films
to the folk who lived around me,
an old Melvin Van Peebles film, we could.
from just a small piece of clay,
piece of clay, which is now my studio.
for those of you who are zoning junkies,
that had been left behind,
the buildings were built,
needs to stay residential."
ain't nobody interested in living there?
the means to leave have already left?
these abandoned buildings?
to wake them up using culture.
was so exciting for folk,
that we had to then find bigger buildings.
necessary to think about those things.
it was in pretty bad shape.
of standing water.
in the neighborhood
in the neighborhood
It was nowhere.
what else could happen in this building?
of my block has spread,
can now be a center
who are now interested
because we brought some heat,
is this Johnson Publishing Corporation.
memorabilia from American history,
or have lived in that neighborhood.
are degraded images of black people,
of very challenging content,
asking themselves about their identity
hardcore node of cultural activity,
to make multiple hubs
green stuff around there,
purchased and rehabbed,
miniature Versailles on top of that,
by a beautiful greenbelt --
never wanted to be
the country and world.
very much like I'm a potter,
that are at our wheel,
that I want to make.
house to a block to a neighborhood
to thinking about the city,
that I didn't know that I had to learn.
about zoning law in my life.
that there's not just room
going to go to scale?"
I couldn't export myself,
in cities like Akron, Ohio,
who already believe in those places,
to make those places beautiful,
who are passionate about a place
necessary to make cool things happen,
a contingency of people
around the country
that are in front of you,
at a wheel or at your block
many people watching this
the question you just raised at the end:
about what someone who is inspired
to take on projects like yours?
I've found that's really important
the kind of individual project,
between an old house,
between those things?
where neighborhoods have failed,
in that place, the passionate people,
who have been fighting,
about the place that they live?
I would be talking about buildings alone,
a "For Lease" sign in the window.
have to curate more than that,
you have to be mindful about,
that I want to grow here?
who live in this place
a cultural space or housing;
of an economic core.
together feels right.
to create the spark again
slogging for 20 years.
that have helped break through?
there are lots of examples
when the media is constantly saying
happen in a place,
and the particular context,
in your neighborhood
if you're a theater person,
the resources in certain neighborhoods
a certain kind of splashy,
of making sure that people
of the things that are happening locally,
that the projects you're creating
vegetarian indie movie crowd
to take advantage of them.
it starts to get into the thick weeds.
TG: Right now, Grand Crossing
who owns property in a place
the streets every day.
that Grand Crossing is already
different than it is today.
housing trusts or land trusts
some of the space that happens,
7,500 empty lots in a city,
just interested in the development piece,
in the stabilization piece,
is really motivated,
of neighborhood consciousness,
that are made available
who have lived in a place for a long time.
One more question:
and the importance of beauty and the arts.
that funds would be better spent
or come against it?
is a basic service.
when there are resources
to certain under-resourced cities
that helps to ignite,
if you can start with culture
reinvested in their place,
amenities start to grow,
that's a poetic demand,
are necessary to wake up our cities,
for being here with us today.
About the speaker:Theaster Gates - Artist, potter, community builder
Theaster Gates is a potter whose ambitions stretch far beyond the wheel and the kiln. In Chicago, his leadership of artist-led spaces has catalyzed interest and excitement in a formerly neglected neighborhood, as he uses culture as a transformational weapon.
Why you should listen
Theaster Gates is helping to define the future of artistic place-based efforts, in research and practice. Beginning with interventions in small-scale residences now known as Dorchester Projects, Gates’ houses in Greater Grand Crossing in Chicago have become a nexus for globally engaged experiments in structures of individual and collective living, working and art-making. Launched into the international art world at Documenta(13), the houses embodied a new system of values and celebrated both a flexible use of space and provided a way for artists, visitors and students to connect and collaborate.
The latest example of this kind of work is the Stony Island Arts Bank, set to open for the Chicago Architecture Biennial in October 2015. Gates will convert a formerly derelict bank on Chicago's south side to create an artwork -- and a communal and creative space.
At the University of Chicago, where he is a professor and the director of arts and public life, Gates leads the Arts Incubator in Washington Park. Gates also leads an urban research initiative known as the Place Lab, a team of social scientists, architects, creative professionals and business leaders. With support from the Knight Foundation, Gates and his team will create frameworks for reimagining the role that culture plays in the redevelopment of transforming African American communities.
Theaster Gates | Speaker | TED.com