Artist Theaster Gates Bought a Crumbling Chicago Bank for $1 and Turned it Into a World-Class Arts Center 

Tom Harris © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

One might think that an abandoned 1920s bank on Chicago’s South Side, crumbling from top to bottom—the roof long collapsed, exposing the interior to snow and rain for years—would be destined for a wrecking ball. Like so many other decaying structures in the area, that was certainly the fate of the Stony Island Savings & Loan building before artist, urban planner, and Chicago resident Theaster Gates intervened.

Armed with only a vision to carry him through, Gates acquired the 20,000-square-foot bank for $1.00 from the city of Chicago and set about an unbelievable restoration. This month, amidst all the hubbub of Chicago’s Architecture Biennale, the doors were thrown open and the public was given the opportunity to walk through the new Stony Island Arts Bank. While construction is complete, several details of the bank’s history including peeling paint and damaged ceiling tiles have been preserved to physically merge the past and present.

Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

The Stony Island Arts Bank is a place that proudly defies convention. A community savings and loan bank shuttered since the 1980s turned into a world-class arts center in the middle of a greatly under-resourced community most in need of bold ideas. It’s the kind of place that civic leaders propose and residents dream of, but for a thousand reasons it never seems to materialize. And yet here it is.

Gates’ idea has now manifested itself as a platform for site-specific exhibitions and commissions, artist residencies, and as a home for the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by the artist in 2010 that seeks specifically to foster culture and development in underinvested neighborhoods. In addition, the arts bank houses the vinyl archive of Frankie Knuckles, regarded as the “Godfather of House Music,” as well as 60,000 glass lantern slides from the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute. You can also find the personal magazine and book collection of John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines.

In a press release Gates describes the Arts Bank as “an institution of and for the South Side,” “a repository for African American culture and history, a laboratory for the next generation of black artists,” and “a space for neighborhood residents to preserve, access, reimagine and share their heritage, as well as a destination for artists, scholars, curators, and collectors to research and engage with South Side history.”

Tom Harris © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

Tom Harris © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

The building’s first exhibition is by Portuguese artist Carlos Bunga, whose installation Under the Skin introduces towering cardboard columns to the bank’s towering first-floor gallery. The facility will undoubtedly be used as a place for black artists, community members, and other individuals to experiment with and engage with the South Side, in an environment Gates refers to as a “laboratory.”

“Projects like this require belief more than they require funding,” Gates tells Fast Company. “If there’s not a kind of belief, motivation, and critical aggregation of people who believe with you in a project like this, it cannot happen. The city is starting to realize that there might be other ways of imagining upside beside ‘return on investment’ and financial gain.”

You can visit the new arts bank Tuesday through Saturday, 11am-6pm. (via Fast Company, the Chicago Reader).

Tom Harris © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

Tom Harris © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

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Fossils from Everyday Life: Plaster Cast Plant Tiles by Rachel Dein 


London-based artist Rachel Dein of Tactile Studio has spent the last few years perfecting the art of plaster casting, an admittedly straightforward process of pressing objects into clay and then filling the voids with combinations of plaster and concrete. However Dein’s time spent as a prop making apprentice for the English National Opera, The Globe Theatre, and The Royal Opera House, has greatly influenced her techniques, elevating a simple craft process into something else entirely.

Dein’s plaster cast tiles can be quite large, measuring nearly 16″ square (40 x 40cm) and are composed of unusual plant life including iberis, Welsh poppies, lilac, dicentra, hellebore and others. Each cast can only be used once, so every object is one-of-a-kind. “I enjoy the magic of plaster casting to create fossils from everyday life, whether it’s a shell found on holiday, your grandmother’s treasured lace, a Christening gown, or the flowers from your wedding,” she says.

Many of her plaster tiles are available for sale in her shop, and you can explore an archive of work in this gallery. Photos by Gerard Wiseman, Rachel Dein and Andrew Montgomery. (via Lustik)












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New Murals and Art Installations at ‘Life is Beautiful’ 2015 

Pixel Panco

Ana Maria

LAS VEGAS — Last month, walls across an area of Old Las Vegas were covered in murals and installations by over 15 artists ahead of the third annual Life is Beautiful music and art fest. Curated by Charlotte Dutoit of JUSTKIDS, the works included pieces by several artists seen lately here on Colossal including Bordalo II, Bikismo, Ana Maria, D*FACE, Pixel Pancho, Filthy Luker, 1010, and Ruben Sanchez. Even Banksy’s famous All City waterfall truck made an appearance.

The Life is Beautiful festival is just one part of the ambitious Downtown Project, an endeavor backed heavily by Zappo’s Tony Hsieh as a means of fostering entrepenurship, creativity, art, and innovation in the Old Vegas area. Long after the festival’s stages and speakers are packed away, the 30+ cumulative murals over the last three years have made the area an easily walkable destination for lots of great street art—a welcome distraction for many from the overwhelming attractions nearby.

In addition to murals the event also included an entire abandoned motel transformed into an ‘Art Motel’ by APEX, talks from the likes of Bill Nye and Rosario Dawson, and plenty of food provided by a swarm of local chefs.

You can see more images from the event over on Complex and StreetArtNews. Photos courtesy Rom Levy.


Bordalo II


Filthy Luker

Ruben Sanchez


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An Elegant Kinetic Sculpture by Derek Hugger that Mimics the Flight of a Hummingbird 

Containing over 400 precisely machined gears, screws, and aesthetic elements, Derek Hugger’s latest kinetic sculpture Colibri mimics the motion of a hummingbird in flight. Though the motions of flying are unmistakable, the piece has much more in common with a clock than a bird. He shares about the piece:

Every element of motion has been completely mechanized, from the beating wings to the flaring tail. Intricate systems of linkages and cams bring the sculpture to life with a continuous flow of meticulously timed articulations. As each mechanism has been linked to the next, Colibri cycles through its complete range of motions by the simple turn of a crank. This project took me roughly 700 hours and contains about 400 parts.

You can see many more of his moving artworks on his website, and in a refreshingly rare move he also sells detailed instructions of how to make them in his shop. (via The Automata Blog)





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A French Museum Dedicated to Over 100 Hyperrealistic Miniature Film Sets 

Le collectionneur de Brooklyn_Miniature de Dan Ohlmann

Housed in a 16th century building in the historic center of Lyon, France is the Musée Miniature et Cinéma, a 5-story museum containing over 100 miniature film sets. The tiny scenes were produced by world-renowned miniaturists and contain the highest form of Hyperrealism in order to trick the audience’s eye into believing each set was indeed life-size.

The handcrafted models contain all the minuscule features that would be found in the film’s actual scene, from fake mold inhabiting peeling walls to scratches seen behind tiny bedposts. The props in the museum’s scenes are also placed with incredible accuracy, disheveled books in libraries propped against each other at just the right angle, and miniature Charles Eames chairs that would even fool the designer. Accurate within these scenes is also their relationship to outside light, windows accentuating or distilling the light to position the set in the right time of day, geographic location or season.

“The subtle lighting arrangement, the painstaking replication of old textures, the use of the same original materials, all contribute to the creation of a moving poetry that resonates with each new miniature panorama,” explains the museum’s website.

If you don’t happen to be traveling to France anytime soon you can see more images of the meticulously detailed scenes on the Musée Miniature et Cinéma’s gallery page here. (via Beautiful/Decay)

Paquebot Normandie - Miniature de Dan Ohlmann


Le dortoir - Miniature de Dan Ohlmann

D.O. Temple Kurama



Maxim's de Paris - Miniature de Dan Ohlmann


Le théâtre de Cupidon - Miniature de Dan Ohlmann


Archives_Miniature de Dan Ohlmann

Prison Saint Paul - Miniature de Dan Ohlmann


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Audiovisual Tricycles by ‘VJ Suave’ Project Animations on the Streets of Rio de Janeiro 

Pay attention folks, interactive public art doesn’t get much better than this. Artist duo Ygor Marotta and Ceci Soloaga of VJ Suave designed these pheonomenal audiovisual tricycles lovingly called “Suaveciclos” that they use to project original animations on almost any nearby public surface. The São Paulo-based artists pack these hefty trikes to the gills with all manner of batteries, laptops, speakers, and high-powered projectors so they can roll through the night with crowds in tow as their animations spring to life against the urban backdrop. Using the on-board computers, Marotta and Soloaga are able to manipulate the videos in real-time to play certain animations tailored to different environments, creating unpredictable moments between space, audience, and art.

Over the last year or so VJ Suave have pedaled their bikes through Russia, Germany and Switzerland, but I think a few more cities are in order? Make it happen. (via Prosthetic Knowledge)










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