There is something different about the house at 6918 South Dorchester Avenue in Chicago’s Grand Crossing neighborhood. In a city of red brick townhouses and bungalows, the two-story structure house is clad in salvaged wood, and the back porch is made of material from old barns. Inside is an odd collection of urban artifacts, including lantern slides from a university art history department, a shuttered record store’s inventory, and decades-old copies of Ebony and Jet.
Part installation piece, part museum, part community center, 6918 South Dorchester is the centerpiece of artist Theaster Gates’s Dorchester Projects, an ongoing exploration of the seams and frays in the fabric of race, politics, tradition, and change that define Chicago’s South Side.
This fall, The New School will host the lecture series and exhibition titled Theaster Gates: A Way of Working, which celebrates Gates’s unique artistic process and the creation of Dorchester Projects. Gates is the recipient of the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, an award honoring artists who advance social justice in profound and visionary ways.
“Theaster Gates is a bold American artist whose work exemplifies an exciting new vision for art that engages viewers politically, emotionally, and even physically,” says Carin Kuoni, director and curator of The New School for Public Engagement’s Vera List Center (VLC), which presents Gates’s work with Parsons’ Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC).
Curated in collaboration with the artist, Theaster Gates: A Way of Working opens with a two-day public forum on the Dorchester Projects (September 18—19). Gates will give a keynote lecture and officially receive the Vera List Center Award, an object designed by Yoko Ono. Over the course of both days, experts in fields such as art, urban policy, economics, and religious studies from The New School and beyond will illuminate the multifaceted and ongoing project. Speakers include Jane Bennett, Katayoun Chamany, Shannon Jackson, Jasmine Rault, SJDC director and chief curator Radhika Subramaniam, and more. Visit the VLC Website for a full schedule.
The presentation in the SJDC’s Aronson Galleries runs from September 18 to October 5. As well as sculpture, drawing, installation pieces, and video from Gates’s studio, the exhibition includes a large-scale rickshaw—inspired by Gates’s recent trip to Haiti—filled with objects from the collections at Dorchester Projects: drawings, video, and a large-scale organizational chart mapping foundational aspects of Gates’s creative practice.
Theaster Gates: A Way of Working is curated by Carin Kuoni and Chelsea Haines, curatorial associate, with support from Kate Hadley Williams, Gates’s studio and exhibitions manager, and La Keisha Leek, artist liaison for Rebuild Foundation. In addition to the forum and gallery presentation, Gates’s engagement with the university includes numerous New School classes, public events, and a publication forthcoming in 2014. Founding supporters of the Prize are James-Keith Brown, Eric Diefenbach, Elizabeth Hilpman, Byron Tucker, Jane Lombard, Joshua Mack, and The New School.
Theaster Gates: A Way of Working is on view in the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries from September 18 through October 15; a reception is scheduled for Thursday, September 18, at 5:30 p.m. All are welcome.