Theaster Gates, a potter by training and a social activist by calling, wanted to do something about the sorry state of his neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. So he did, transforming abandoned buildings to create community hubs that connect and inspire those who still live there (and draw in those who don't). In this passionate talk, Gates describes his efforts to build a "miniature Versailles" in Chicago, and he shares his fervent belief that culture can be a catalyst for social transformation in any city, anywhere.

Theaster Gates (b.1973) currently lives and works in Chicago. He is renowned internationally for his interdisciplinary blend of social practice, performance, institution-building, painting, and sculpting. His practice, deeply rooted in African-American histories and culture, revolves around the transformation of objects, buildings and communities by catalyzing development through art and cultural activity. Theaster Gates attended Iowa State University (MS, 2006; BS, 1996) and University of Cape Town (MA, 1998), where he combined studies in ceramics, urban planning and religious studies. 

Gates has received numerous awards, including the Nasher Prize (2018), the Kurt Schwitters Prize (2017), the American Academy of Arts & Sciences Award (2016), and the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Social Progress (2015). His work can be found in public collections worldwide, including the Menil Collection, Houston; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Canada, Ontario; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Tate Gallery, London; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He is the founder and currently serves as the Chairman of the Rebuild Foundation and is the inaugural Distinguished Visiting Artist and Director of Artist Initiatives at the Lunder Institute for American Art at the Colby College Museum of Art.

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