Theaster Gates creates platforms. In Chicago, Gates’ leadership of artist-led spaces has catalyzed an evolution in perceptions of some of the most underserved parts of the city. Beginning with interventions in small-scale residences, now known as Dorchester Projects, Gates’ houses in Greater Grand Crossing became a nexus for globally engaged experiments in structures of individual and collective living, working and art-making. Launched into the international art world as 12 Ballads for Huguenot House at dOCUMENTA13, the houses embodied a new system of values not only in the austere yet inviting atmosphere incorporating once-discarded materials as design elements, but in the ongoing, flexible use of the spaces and the creation of new relationships and opportunities among artists, visitors and students.
As evident in the synergistic design process of his mindful building practices and persistent challenging of organizational structures, Gates’ development projects function as an extension of his studio work. Gates takes on the problem of Black space as a formal exercise, reminiscent of Beuys concept of social sculpture. The latest example of this work is the Stony Island Arts Bank, owned and envisioned by Gates, and opening in conjunction with the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial in October 2015.
At the University of Chicago Gates is a Professor in the Department of Visual Arts and the College, and Director of Arts + Public Life which is housed at the Arts Incubator in Washington Park. He also leads an urban research initiative known as Place Lab—a team of social scientists, architects, creative professionals and business leaders. With support from the Knight Foundation, Gates and his team will create frameworks for reimagining the role that culture plays in the redevelopment of transforming African American communities over the next three years. Gates is helping to define the future of artistic place-based efforts, in research and practice.
Gates is also the founder and Artistic Director of Rebuild Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that endeavors to rebuild the cultural foundations of neighborhoods and incite movements of community revitalization that are culture based, artist led, and neighborhood driven.
Steve Edwards is the Executive Director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, founded by former White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod. The Institute inspires and cultivates the next generation of political and public service leaders through public events, professional fellowships, and hands on opportunities for students.
Most recently, he was an award-winning journalist at WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station, where he served as host of the acclaimed daily shows The Afternoon Shift, and Eight Forty-Eight. During his tenure, Eight Forty-Eight was named “Best Public Affairs Program” by Chicago Magazine and “Best Morning Radio Program” by Newcity Chicago.
As a journalist and interviewer, Edwards covered everything from art and architecture to politics and urban policy. His work has appeared on the BBC, Bloomberg News, PBS, and on numerous public radio stations around the United States.
Edwards earned his B.A. in political science from Amherst College, and was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan.