Theaster Gates

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Theaster Gates
Unleashing Entrepreneurial Innovation with Stanford University Theaster Gates.jpg
Gates at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2013
Born (1973-08-28) August 28, 1973 (age 43)
Chicago, Illinois, US
Nationality American
Known for Installation art, Urbanism
Movement Social Practice

Theaster Gates (born August 28, 1973) is an American social practice installation artist. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he still lives and works. Gates' work has been shown at major museums and galleries internationally and deals with issues of urban planning, religious space, and craft. He is committed to the revitalization of poor neighborhoods through combining urban planning and art practices.

Early life, education and career[edit]

Theaster Gates was born and raised in East Garfield Park on the West Side of Chicago. He was the youngest of nine children and the only son. His father was a roofer and his mother, a school teacher. His sisters passed on their interest in civil rights activism and the family attended a Baptist church where Gates, a choir member, became interested in performance. A good student, Gates attended Lane Technical High School. In 1996, he graduated from Iowa State University, with a B.S. in Urban Planning and Ceramics. His early art was in pottery, and he spent time studying the art in Japan. He decided he wanted to explore religion in South Africa, and in 1998 he received a M.A. at the University of Cape Town in Fine Arts, and Religious Studies.[1]

He returned to Chicago and was hired by the Chicago Transit Authority to organize and obtain public art for its public transportation system. In 2006 he was awarded an M.S. in Urban Planning, again from Iowa State, with additional studies in Ceramics, and Religious Studies. In 2006, he was hired by the University of Chicago as an arts programmer, and later director of arts outreach. In addition to creating fine arts pottery, he became interested in presenting performance art.[1][2]


Rebuild Foundation[edit]

Gates is the founder and artist Director of the Rebuild Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on cultural-driven redevelopment and affordable space initiatives in under-resourced communities. Under Gates' leadership, the Rebuild Foundation currently manages projects in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago. Rebuild received official 501(c)3 status in December 2010.[3] Program sites include the Stony Island Arts Bank, the Black Cinema House, the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, Archive House, and Listening House.[4]

For the Dorchester Projects, one of Rebuild's Foundation's most celebrated works, he restored vacant buildings and turned them into cultural institutions with artifacts from the South Side. Gates's Rebuild Foundation has renovated two houses on Dorchester Avenue, now called the Archive House and the Listening House. In 2013, he purchased the Stony Island State Savings Bank from the city of Chicago.[1] The Archive House holds 14,000 architecture books from a closed bookshop.[5] The Listening House holds 8,000 records purchased at the closing of Dr. Wax Records.[6] The Stony Island Savings Bank now known as the Stony Island Arts Bank contains the book collection of John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines; the record collection of Frankie Knuckles, the godfather of house music; and slides of the collections of the University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago.[7] In 2015, his Stony Island work was included in the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial.[8]

University of Chicago Arts and Public Life initiative[edit]

Since 2011, Gates has been the director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago. In this role, he oversees staff at the Arts Incubator in Washington Park and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, a wide network of resident and visiting artists (including current and former participants in our residency program), community participants, programmatic partners, and friends.[9] Gates is also the leader of the Place Lab, a partnership between Arts + Public Life and the Harris School of Public Policy, which is working to design and implement new approaches to urban development. The Place Lab partners with the demonstration cities of Gary, Akron, Detroit, and other Knight Foundation communities.[10]

Other exhibitions and performances[edit]

In January 2014 he designed a million-dollar installation for the South Side's 95th Street subway terminal. It is the largest public art project in the history of the Chicago Transit Authority.[1] He was participant at the 2012 dOCUMENTA (13) art show in Kassel, Germany, the 2010 Whitney Biennial in New York,[11] the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2010, the 2010 Art Chicago fair.[12] He was included in "Hand+Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft", at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and in 2013 had a solo show, 13th Ballad, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.[13] Gates is represented by Regen Projects of Los Angeles and White Cube, London.[14] On May 30, 2014, Gates and jazz pianist Jason Moran led a one-time performance entitled Looks of a Lot as part of the "Symphony Center Presents Jazz" series and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's "Truth to Power Festival."

In October 2015, Gates created an installation at Temple Church, Bristol, England. Built in co-operation with its owner English Heritage, "Sanctum" will provide a venue with 24 hours of music and performance over 24 days, in a performance event funded by Arts Council England and developed as part of Bristol 2015 Green Capital.[15]



  1. ^ a b c d John Colapinto (January 20, 2014). "The Real-Estate Artist: High-Concept Renewal on the South Side". The New Yorker. 
  2. ^ "Theaster Gates". Theaster Gates. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Rebuild’s Story". Rebuild Foundation. Retrieved February 13, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Sites". Rebuild Foundation. Retrieved February 13, 2016. 
  5. ^ Crow, Kelly (October 25, 2012). "The Artist Next Door". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 13, 2015. 
  6. ^ McDonough, Tom (Winter 2015). "Theaster Gates". BOMB Magazine 130. Retrieved July 13, 2015. 
  7. ^ Harris, Melissa (September 4, 2015). "First look inside Theaster Gates' new Stony Island Arts Bank". Retrieved October 16, 2015. 
  8. ^ Heyman, Stephen (November 29, 2015). "Inside Chicago's Amazing First Architecture Biennial". Vogue. 
  9. ^ "Who are we? | UChicago Arts | The University of Chicago". Retrieved February 13, 2016. 
  10. ^ "About". Place Lab. Retrieved February 13, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Whitney Museum of American Art: Theaster Gates". 2009-10-30. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  12. ^ Rachel Wolff (May 2010). "Theaster Gates Jr. shakes up his hometown art fair". Chicago magazine. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Theaster Gates: 13th Ballad". MCA Chicago. Retrieved February 13, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Theaster Gates". White Cube. 
  15. ^ "Temple Church ruins turned in to Bristol's latest 24 hour music venue". Bristol Post. October 29, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Theaster Gates – Fello Profile". United States Artists. 
  17. ^ Crow, Kelly. "The Artist Next Door". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved February 13, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Theaster Gates". Vera List Center. 
  19. ^ "Artes Mundi winner Theaster Gates to share prize money". BBC News. January 23, 2015. Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  20. ^ Anny Shaw (April 12, 2016), Theaster Gates wins Germany’s Kurt Schwitters Prize, The Art Newspaper.


  • Carol Becker, Lisa Yun Lee, Achim Borchardt-Hume, Theaster Gates, Phaidon, London, 2015.
  • Bill Brown, Fred Moten, Jacqueline Terrassa, Theaster Gates: My Labor Is My Protest, White Cube, London, 2013.
  • Michael Darling, Matthew Day Jackson, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Theaster Gates: 12 Ballads for Huguenot House, Walther König, Cologne, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]