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Art Design History

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

October 13, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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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.

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Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation

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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.”

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Tom Harris © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation

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Tom Harris © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation

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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).

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Tom Harris © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation

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Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation

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Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation

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Tom Harris © Hedrich Blessing. Courtesy of Rebuild Foundation.

 

 



Art Food

Treats in the Streets: Artist Jim Bachor Fills Potholes with Ice Cream Mosaics

May 19, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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For the third year in a row Chicago artist Jim Bachor (previously here and here) has taken it upon himself to preemptively fix city potholes by filling them with themed mosaics. This year Bachor decided on a series of 10 pothole mosaics called Treats in the Streets featuring different kinds of ice cream. At the latest count, four artworks have appeared in locations around Chicago, and he traveled all the way to Jyväskylä, Finland last week to do three more mosaics including a local popsicle-like dessert called Amppari-mehujaa. Bachor says to keep an eye out for three more pieces back home in Chicago sometime before spring is out.

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Art Photography

Bean: 1, Tourist: 0 — Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate Sculpture Fed-up with Chicago Weather

March 24, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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This photo pretty much sums up the feelings of an entire city as nearly 6 inches of snow fell on Chicago late this weekend. Local photographer Patricia Jones happened to be shooting by Kapoor’s Cloud Gate as tourists were snapping their own photos when the sculpture suddenly attacked. Hilariously perfect timing. (via Reddit, Instagram)

 

 



Photography

Dizzying Carousel GIFs by Dave Gorum

January 26, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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Designer Dave Gorum (previously) recently stopped by the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to capture the carousel in this fun pair of gifs. The strobe effect of the lights moving in the opposite direction of the platform is uncanny.

 

 



Art

Guerilla Mosaic Artist Now Filling Chicago Potholes with Flowers

October 31, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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Artist Jim Bachor (previously) continued his guerrilla effort to remedy Chicago’s pothole problem by creating a number of flower mosaics in streets around the city. Bachor installed four mosaics through this fall while the weather cooperated, but as things get wet and cooler we’ll probably see a bit less of his, uhm, street art. I’m not sure if any of these are still around, but he keeps a list of photos and addresses where each piece was installed. Bachor opens a new exhibition of mosaic art at Packer Schopf Gallery titled “Jentaculum” early next month.

 

 



Photography

Chicago in the Fog by Michael Salisbury

September 12, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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Local photographer Michael Salisbury snapped some excellent photos of the fog swallowing Chicago this summer. You can see more over on his Flickr stream and on Instagram.

 

 



Photography

An Aerial View of Anish Kapoor’s Reflective ‘Cloud Gate’ Sculpture

August 31, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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Photographer Gray Malin was recently in Chicago where he shot a number of amazing aerial photos around the city including beaches, Navy Pier, and spots around Millennium  Park. For some reason, even though it’s been on view for nearly 8 years now, I’ve never seen a photo of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate taken from directly above like this. It looks almost exactly like a small lake filled with Chicago’s skyline. You can see more from Malin’s trip here. (via Art Effect)

 

 

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Artist Cat Enamel Pins