Theaster Gates is dedicated to enacting real change. By undertaking an expansive range of simultaneous projects, from art installations to urban planning, this Chicago-based artist advocates for the preservation and presentation of art and life in a socially engaged capacity. Through initiatives such as Rebuild Foundation and the development of Stony Island Art Bank in Chicago, Gates continues to be a leader in cultural production. Alexie Glass-Kantor, Executive Director of Artspace in Sydney, first visited Stony Island Art Bank in January 2019. After attending Gates’ exhibition opening of Every Square Needs a Circle at Richard Gray Gallery in April, she interviewed the artist about the important role of advocacy and leadership within his socially engaged practice.
Stony Island Arts Bank is a multifaceted arts centre and varied structure for supporting research, advocacy, education, performance, artists and archives. In 2013, you acquired The Arts Bank for $1 from the City of Chicago. How do you reflect on the original vision for the entity and how it has evolved in the past six years? What do you think the space represents for the South Side in Chicago and how is it being utilised by local and international communities?
The Arts Bank has been such an amazing opportunity for me, because it demonstrates that conceptual practices can exist not only within museum spaces, but also in spaces where art isn’t expected. I’ve taken my combined interests in art production, platform making, notions of demonstration and execution, questions around policy and how policy might be used to shape spaces or reshape spaces, and applied them towards an effort that would have an ongoing effect. This durational and iterative process meant that I could experiment and fail in real time, while considering what
it meant to take this planning history, art history, and sense of how cities work, and put these ideas into something that would have meaning for others.
There’s nothing about the project that’s altruistic. My decision to invest in the bank was because I really believed in the space that I lived in and the people that lived around me. Ultimately, that would yield something bigger than my imagination, bigger than my investment towards the restitching of ... Subscribe to read this article in full