|Stony Island Arts Bank 68th & Stony Island by Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune|
One of the cultural things that I would like to see more of in our communities. How many of us would support such a project and when it's done come visit?
The last time Theaster Gates walked me through the abandoned bank at East 68th Street and South Stony Island Avenue, water dripped from the ceiling, clouds wafted over a hole in the roof, and shards of glass and scraps of plaster crunched under his feet.Read the whole thing!
The 42-year-old Chicago artist will debut his $4.5 million renovation of the bank — which he has transformed into a library and cultural center — on Oct. 3, the opening day of the city's first architectural biennial.
That the city's cultural elite will be drawn about 9 miles south of the Loop into a building once scheduled for demolition speaks to Gates' lofty position in the contemporary art world.
It also speaks to his commitment to the South Side, even as Manhattan and Europe frequently draw him away, as well as his skill at requisitioning everything from record collections to patrons' money. Playwright Regina Taylor once aptly summed up Gates' demeanor in the Chicago Reader as that of "a soulful Cheshire Cat."
"I was really determined to see this project happen," Gates said in a phone interview from Istanbul, where he was preparing for that city's contemporary art biennial. "For people in my life who respect the work I do and understand the work, everyone around me had anxiety about its scale. And the friendly advice I got from everybody was to walk away."