Theaster Gates: To Expand

Theaster Gates has been awarded the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. The artist considers his work – particularly the Dorchester Projects begun in 2009 with the acquisition of a two-story abandoned building on Chicago’s west-side for re-use as a library, slide archive, and soul food kitchen – as an expanded art practice. This was the subject of a 2-day forum, artist talk, and exhibition: “A Way of Working” at the New School. A highly charismatic figure, Gates performs rather than lectures, infusing the same passion into his talk as he gives his projects. He spoke of standing divided in his varying commitments to friends, family, teaching, art, and community but he also spoke of the necessity of claiming responsibility for what’s outside his door. Referring to the high disparity in the distribution of resources, he emphasized that “we are in a moment today [when] it is impossible not to be generous.” From his insightful tactics into his way of working, I’ve deduced seven take-away points:

to  l i s t e n

to learn   (activism!)

to imagine

to cultivate

to reconcile

to commit


Images courtesy of

to  e x p a n d . . . 


One comment

  1. Corinna Manetto · ·

    Hello hello, I’ve been thinking about you… Theaster Gates puts me in mind of a fellow I just discovered, Rodriguez… the subject of the movie, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN…

    Givers. Supportive creators… The best of the best. Beats the heck out of egomaniacal artists. Thanks for this Hope you’re well & as busy as you’d like to be! Corinna

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