Theaster Gates

I was flipping through a copy of Architectural Digest recently while in a waiting room and came across a picture of a man that made me pause:


“Wow, this dude is cool.”

Something about his eyes, stance, and style struck me. His name is Theaster Gates. He is an artist from Chicago, a potter by trade. He has been making headlines around the world through his non-profit Rebuild Foundation that creates community spaces in low-income, African-American neighborhoods by renovating decaying buildings.

For example, an old bank was set to be demolished.

He bought the building for $1 from the city. It needed a lot of work, yet, no banks would give him a loan. So, he decided to chop up the marble from the old bathrooms into rectangles, etch them with logos as “bank bonds” for the project, and took them to Europe where he sold them at $5,000 apiece. He raised $1 million in the process. $1 to $1,000,000! That’s magic right there; something out of nothing. The result is a beautiful library space:

Another example: a record shop was going out of business. He bought an old building, purchased the record company’s whole inventory and placed it in the building with record players to listen. It’s now called “The Listening House”.

If you have 10-15 minutes check out the segment on his work from the very well-done series “Art21” on PBS. Reviewing his work has me incredibly inspired about what is possible through vision, grounded creativity, and focus: Theaster Gates on Art21

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