An Inside Look at Theaster Gates’ New Arts Block in Washington Park
Theaster Gates is changing the face of neighborhoods across the city, one art project at a time. From his revamping of the Stoney Island Arts Bank to his work at the Dorchester Projects, he’s become a seemingly unstoppable force when it comes to developing communities through cultural institutions.
On Wednesday, August 24, he hosted a Chicago Ideas Co-op event at his latest initiative, a new arts and culture corridor on Garfield Boulevard in Washington Park dubbed the Arts Block.
The Arts Block is riding the success of the University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator located at 301 E. Garfield Blvd. With the recent addition of Bing Art Bookstore and Currency Exchange Cafe next door, Gates has managed to create a magnetic and engaging community space the area surrounding the Garfield Green Line L station.
“I said I could convert the Arts Incubator into a space that could be the university’s first intentional step into the hood,” Gates says. “The only way we could make that step right is if the building wasn’t a university building.”
He’s successfully made that step happen, and Wednesday night’s event was a beautiful introduction into one of the most compelling community development projects in Chicago. After showing off the bookstore and cafe, Gates gave attendees to the event a sneak peek into his another building that he’s developing, The Muffler Shop at 359 E. Garfield Blvd. There, Arts Incubator Artist-in-Residence Coultrain played a surprise show at the new event space at a party that was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Check out photos of the event below, and take a look at the 2016 Chicago Ideas Week schedule to participate in more events like this come October.
The Chicago Ideas Co-op is a new-age networking group aimed at sparking action within our community. A big thanks to Lagunitas Brewing Company, Rhine Hall Distillery, Green Sheep Water, Prairie Organic Spirits, Arts + Public Life and Currency Exchange Cafe for partnering with us on the event.
Photographs by Jim Vondruska