In about a year’s time, a former Catholic school in Greater Grand Crossing will be transformed.
“This space was really sophisticated, so with the work of Powers and Sons we’ll restore this and make it beautiful,” Theaster Gates says while offering tour of a future arts incubator.
It’s all a part of Rebuild Foundation’s newest venture, rebuilding the former St. Laurence Elementary School into a one-of-a-kind arts incubator. It will eventually house art studios, co-working spaces and classrooms that will offer education on financial literacy.
Gates says it’s imperative that artists’ minds are not only fostered creatively but through that educational component as well.
“There’s a lack of knowledge around what it means to be creative, and then how do you utilize that creativity to make a life that’s sustainable for yourself? Black and brown people spend a lot of time being the talent for other infrastructural houses that then take our talent and do great things with our talent. But is it possible for us to build the houses our talent lives in? We want to build the talent, but also equip them with the tools to start an LLC, get legal advice, or just grow until they don’t need us anymore.”
One artist who will utilize this new resource is furniture designer, Norman Teague. He’s one of many artists selected to be members of a new cohort in collaboration with the Prada Group, and Gates’ Dorchester Industries, that will amplify selected artists in spaces like this new incubator, over the course of three years.
“It’s one of the proudest moments in my career,” Teague said. “To be aligned and working with these people gives me the freedom to — can I flap my wings on WTTW?”
Teague has been disrupting spaces and manipulating wood and other inanimate objects for more than 20 years. Teague says that unlike other opportunities, this new collaboration with Rebuild and partners will allow him to not only grow as an artist but will help the next generation of artists as well.
“The exposure I’ll get will be the influence for the next Black designer who sees that it is OK and that you can flap your wings, and do things outside of the norm. I’ve been all my life pushing to be the influence for the next young designer.”
Preparing the next generation is a mission not just of Teague’s, but of Gates’s with the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab, the new incubator, and his other endeavors.
“Because it’s down the street from the Stony Island Arts Bank and studios, and the artists’ housing, it feels like we’re in the beginning of a sophisticated cultural district,” Gates says. “One big hope is to model what cultural leadership looks like and what a cultural hub looks like. We don’t have to do it in 77 neighborhoods around the city. We can do it well here and use it as a model that could impact the cultural leaders in other cities around the world.”
Programming for the developing arts incubator is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2023.
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.