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Theaster Gates: It takes ordinary people to do extraordinary things

Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates

On Monday, May 2nd at the Arts Bank, world renown artist Theaster Gates, founder of the Rebuild Foundation, hosted the second annual Professor Timuel Black Distinguished Guest Lecture and Jazz Concert. Gates is also a professor in the Department of Visual Arts and the Director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago.

Theaster Gates describes the Arts Bank, located at 6760 S. Stony Island, as, “unapologetically black,” and says that others knowing our history is important and our knowing others’ history is also important.

He says that when he and his team took the building, they were trying to figure out how to make an impactful gesture to the community and now some of the history of blackness comes back to the area that produced it. He has a space where culture can live and is doing it in the present and after one year, the Arts Bank is still open.

He told the audience that living archives are important and that the only difference between a lot of what people have at home and what is displayed in the Arts Bank is that he dusted it off and cleaned it up. Also acquired by the Arts Bank are the DuSable High School’s library archives. When the library was being threatened with closing, a concerned librarian contacted the Arts Bank in order to save the collection. Students held read-ins and, by doing so, temporarily stopped the library from closing.

Professor Timuel Black
Professor Timuel Black

Professor Timuel Black has published two books, Bridges of Memory Volume I and Volume II, and is currently working on his memoirs, On Sacred Ground.

He discussed how the demolition of special places in Bronzeville is wiping out history and all evidence of the thriving metropolis it once was.

Black, now 96, told of the happiness his growing up on the south side gave him, “We were poor but we weren’t poverty-stricken. The feeling we had going to places like the Savoy…boy, we were happy to be there! We were in a depression but we weren’t depressed.”

Black earned a Master’s Degree at the University of Chicago and encouraged students to get their education so that when the door of opportunity opens, they will be ready to walk through it. Metropolis